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The film adaptation of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in 1958 with Paul Newman as Brick and Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie was an Oscar-winning performance. The play, written by Tennessee Williams in 1955, will always live on in the hearts of many generations.
So just what is it about The Cat On A Hot Tin Roof? Messages of alcoholism, marital neglect, family inheritance, sibling rivalry and hints of same sex feelings… The list goes on. There’s something that touches everyone, whether on the surface or deep down, in this play.
If your memory is as good as mine – or maybe you’re as old as me – perhaps the themes are reminiscent of those in the hit TV series Fame! Indeed, dancer and entertainer from that show Debbie Allen has brought her own adaptation of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof from the USA the UK – and she has brought a stellar cast (including her sister) with her:
- James Earl Jones – the voice of Mufasa, CNN, and Darth Vader
- Phylicia Rashaad – she will always be Clair Huxtable to me
- Sonaa Lathan – Nip Tuck, The Best Man, Love and Basketball
- Adrian Lester – Mickey Bricks in TV’s Hustle
Phylicia is Big Mamma, and no matter how much this woman tries to look old, sound old and act old, she will always ooze what I call “the beauty spirit.” Sonaa Lathan as Maggie is everything that Elizabeth Taylor was but just packaged in a beautiful African American body.
And let’s not forget Adrian Lester, who I first had a major crush on in the American series Girlfriends, but he blew my mind in the BBC TV series Hustle. Adrian plays an amazing Brick and the chemistry (or sometimes lack of, due to the story line) is spot on.
So does this story warrant an African American cast, and have they brought the essence of Tennessee’s initial vision to life? In my opinion, there is a richer depth than the film, and some scenes touch you more than the film can because you’re sitting in a theatre, watching these characters, live! (You can almost reach out and touch them!) Phylicia’s delivery of hurt and pain when it is announced that Big Daddy is ill is an incredible piece of theatre.
Cat on A Hot Tin Roof will have its final curtain call on 10 April. My suggestion is that if you haven’t treated yourself to a performance yet, you may want to do so.