Mention the movie titles Barbershop, Johnson Family Vacation, Street Kings, Madagascar and Talk to Me, plus the television shows The Steve Harvey Show, Def Comedy Jam and It’s Showtime at the Apollo and ask which African-American actor and comedian has been in the entertainment business for 21 years and has been part of all these movies and TV shows.
Chances are most people will give the correct answer: Cedric the Entertainer.
Not content to rest on his big- and small-screen success, Cedric the Entertainer is trying a new outlet for his acting and comedic talents - Broadway. He is preparing to star with John Leguizamo and Haley Joel Osment in David Mamet’s classic drama American Buffalo. With previews beginning Oct. 31, the show will open on Nov. 17 for a limited engagement.
Cedric the Entertainer, his fellow cast members and the show’s producers, including Vy Higginsen, creator of Mama I Want to Sing, and business mogul Oscar Joyner, recently shared with the press the excitement of combining this particular cast with the guidance of legendary Broadway director Robert Falls. Cedric the Entertainer spoke specifically to The Network Journal about his debuting on Broadway, his character in the play, and about his hope that audiences will come out to support the production.
“I’ve covered so many genres — stand-up, commercials, film and television. I wanted my career to jump off and do something different. I got the call to do this and it was great,” he said.
He conceded that the idea of taking on Broadway at first was frightening, but the offer became far more enticing when he heard that Leguizamo was part of the cast. Leguizamo appeared in the Broadway productions Freak and Sexaholix.
“We had done The Honeymooners together. I love his performances in all the Broadway stuff that he had done. I thought it would be good to come with somebody who has experience being on stage here. Then, when they added Haley Joel, I thought it just rounded out the cast,” Cedric said.
Cedric will play a patriarch-type character named Donny Dubrow, who owns a junkyard located inside a building. “It is a place that local men on the low end of life [played by Leguizamo and Osment] come to play cards, rest and vent, using me as a sounding board,” he explained.
What also sealed the Broadway deal for him, he said, was the marvelous work of the writer. “I liked David Mamet’s stuff from Glengarry Glen Ross and The Verdict. His writing style is such that his characters have much depth inside of what it is they are saying. As a dramatic piece, it was an opportunity to show some dramatic chops; to grow as a dramatic actor and still have a little bit of opportunity to put some of my comedic influence into this character. So it seemed like it was going to be a great opportunity all around,” Cedric said.
Preparing for his Broadway debut has been challenging. After so many years of stand-up comedy and being able to change material, improvise or abbreviate, on Broadway “it’s all about the playwright. It’s all about the written word and performing that and learning to respect that,” Cedric said. “So the biggest thing for me is to get involved with the script — who my character is, what he is saying and why he is saying it — and then try to find ways to make that exciting to me so I’m not bored on stage every night.”
As the audience watches the play, he said, “I want them to feel the soul and the depth of the character. I want people to say ‘this guy was able to do something I didn’t expect of him.’”
For tickets to see American Buffalo, call Telecharge at 212-239-6262 or 888-268-2020, or go to www.telecharge.com .