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YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON BROADWAY: 'A Raisin in the Sun' and Other Theatrical Improbabilities

Philip Rose, Author
Philip Rose, Author . Limelight Editions $25 (305p) ISBN 978-0-87910-960-8
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The producer of such legendary Broadway shows as A Raisin in the Sun and The Owl and the Pussycat, Rose here checks in autobiographically to show today's producers how much work remains to be done in integrating the American theater. His affectionately garrulous account of his adventures contains many pointed anecdotes about faithless (and sometimes criminal) investors, duplicitous producers, mentally disturbed directors and many other stage and screen fauna who make a producer's life a difficult one. But unlike those who go with the flow, Rose was determined, in the above and other shows, to hire casts that reflected America, choosing gifted actors such as Diana Sands, Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier if he felt they were suited to their roles, and ignoring the prevailing color code on Broadway. Now retired from producing, but still active at 80 as a manager, Rose has the perspective and wit to speak of the dramatic events of his life, even if his somewhat long narrative could have benefited in places from stricter editing. Particularly moving is the account of his friendship with playwright Lorraine Hansberry, whose Raisin in the Sun marked not just the first time an African-American woman had a play on Broadway, but also the first time an African-American director (Lloyd Richards) made it to Broadway. (June)

Forecast:Since Broadway, and the rest of American theater, is far from solving the casting attitudes that still keep talented actors of color largely underemployed, Rose's book should be mind-opening reading for a whole new generation of producers, if they have the smarts to heed it. It's a limited audience, but one that can have great impact; the bottom line, as shown by Rose's theatrical choices, is that enlightened views on race can actually translate into commercial success.

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