Original Cast Recording
|Book||Robert B. Nemiroff
|Basis||Lorraine Hansberry's play
A Raisin in the Sun
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
Raisin is a musical theatre adaptation of the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun, with songs by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan, and a book by Robert Nemiroff (who was Hansberry's former husband) and Charlotte Zaltzberg.
The story concerns an African-American family in Chicago in 1951. The musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Musical, and the Broadway production ran for 847 performances.
In Chicago in 1951, an African-American family, Ruth Younger, her husband Walter Lee Younger, their son Travis and Walter's mother are living in a cramped apartment. Walter is a chauffeur but thinks that his father's life insurance policy proceeds will buy a way to a better life. He plans on buying a liquor store, but his mother Mama Lena Younger is against the selling of liquor. Tensions arise as Walter tries to convince Mama Lena to forget her dream of buying the family its own small house ("A Whole Lotta Sunlight").
Walter decides to make the deal for the liquor store and signs the papers with his partners Bobo Jones and Willie Harris. Beaneatha Younger, Walter's sister, is in college and is romantically involved with an African exchange student, Asagai. When Walter comes home drunk he joins Beaneatha in a celebratory dance, picturing himself as a chieftain ("African Dance"). Ruth and Walter fight about their future but they reconcile ("Sweet Time"). Mama arrives to announce that she has bought a house in the white neighborhood of Clybourne Park, and Walter leaves in anger.
Walter has not returned home and Mama finds him in a bar. She apologizes and gives him an envelope filled with money. She asks him to deposit $3,000 for Beaneatha's college education, and tells him the rest is for him. As the family packs to move, a representative of Clybourne Park, Karl Lindner, arrives and offers to buy back the house. Walter, Ruth and Beaneatha mockingly tell Mama of the enlightened attitude of their new neighbors. Just then Bobo arrives to tell the family the bad news that Willie has run off with the money. This forces Walter to contact Lindner and accept the offer to buy back the house. Although Beaneatha berates her brother for not standing up for principles, Mama shows compassion and understanding ("Measure the Valleys").
When Lindner arrives, Walter announces that the family will, after all, move to the new house.
Characters and original cast
- Ruth Younger — Ernestine Jackson
- Travis Younger — Ralph Carter
- Mrs. Johnson — Helen Martin
- Walter Lee Younger — Joe Morton
- Beneatha Younger — Debbie Allen
- Mama Lena Younger — Virginia Capers
- Joseph Asagai — Robert Jackson
The musical began a pre-Broadway tryout on May 30, 1973 at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.. It premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on October 18, 1973, transferred to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on January 13, 1975, and closed on December 8, 1975 after 847 performances. Donald McKayle was the director and choreographer, and the cast featured Virginia Capers as Lena, Joe Morton as Walter, Ernestine Jackson as Ruth, Debbie Allen as Beneatha, Ralph Carter as Travis, Helen Martin as Mrs. Johnson, and Ted Ross as Bobo. Capers later starred in the national tour. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The Long Beach Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California presented the musical in February and March 2003.
In reviewing a performance in Washington (Arena Stage), Clive Barnes of The New York Times called it "a warm and loving work." In his review of the Broadway production, Barnes noted that the book of the musical "is perhaps even better than the play.... 'Raisin' is one of those unusual musicals that should not only delight people who love musicals, but might also well delight people who don't".
After the Broadway opening, Walter Kerr of The New York Times wrote, "The strength of Raisin lies in the keen intelligence and restless invention of a musical underscoring that has simply invaded Lorraine Hansbury's once tightly-knit, four-walled, close-quartered play, A Raisin in the Sun, plucking the walls away, spilling the action onto the streets with a jittery down-flight of strings, mocking and matching realistic speech with frog-throated sass from the heavy-breathing viols." The New York Times also reported that there are "ovations every night at the 46th Street Theatre for 'Raisin'. But they are for the cast, not individual performers. There are no stars.... It was at the Arena Theater in Washington, where the play first opened this spring, that Mr. McKayle said he started evolving the ensemble-acting concept."
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1974||Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical||Joe Morton||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Virginia Capers||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Ralph Carter||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Ernestine Jackson||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Donald McKayle||Nominated|
|Theatre World Award||Ralph Carter||Won|
|1975||Grammy Award||Best Score From the Original Cast Show Album||Robert Brittan, Judd Woldin (composers); Thomas Z. Shepard (producer); the original cast (Virginia Capers, Joe Morton, Ernestine Jackson, Robert Jackson, Deborah Allen, Helen Martin)||Won|
- Barnes, Clive. "Stage:Capitol's 'Raisin'", The New York Times, May 31, 1973, p. 49
- "Sing 'Em All! The Tony Awards Songbook". 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- 'Raisin' at the Court Theatre, 2006 www.courttheatre.org, accessed August 15, 2009
- "The musical is 'Raisin' and it has come to Broadway via Washington's Arena Stage". Barnes, Clive. "Theater: 'Raisin' in Musical Form", The New York Times, October 19, 1973, p. 59
- Kerr, Walter. "Raisin is Sweet, Could Be Sweeter", The New York Times, October 28, 1973, p. 127
- Campbell, Barbara. "Cast of 'Raisin' Works as Close as a Bunch of Grapes", The New York Times, October 27, 1973, p. 20
- Tony Awards, 1974 tonyawards.com, accessed August 15, 2009
- Raisin at the Internet Broadway Database
- Raisin synopsis, production information at guidetomusicaltheatre.com
- 'Raisin' published script
- New York Times obituary, Nemiroff, July 19, 1991