From My Collection: The Original RAISIN Souvenir Program
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
This now strangely neglected show was the 1975 TONY Award winner for Best Musical, and I remember loving it.
RAISIN was a very enjoyable and very moving show, with a jazzy, dynamic, evocative score. The book was drawn very faithfully (perhaps too faithfully) from Lorraine Hansberry's great play A Raisin In The Sun. Hansberry had died by then and the script for the musical was adapted by her husband, who also was the show's producer. I do remember feeling that he probably should have trimmed the dialogue more and allowed the terrific songs to carry more of the story.
The cast was incredible, headed by the great Virginia Capers, who received that season's TONY for Best Actress In A Musical, even though she really had more of a supporting role. I still can feel her completely commanding the stage, and as the critic Clive Barnes said -- she was "tremendous in just about every sense of the word. " Just listen to her two songs on the original cast recording and you will get a sense of presence she brought to the show. Joe Morton and Ernestine Jackson were the actual leads, and both were wonderful. Only now looking through this program have I realized that playing the sister in her Broadway debut was a very young Debby Allen, billed here as "Deborah." I do remember that she led a captivating African Dance sequence.
That dance, and the entire show was expertly and innovatively staged by Donald McKayle. With this show he become the first black "Director/Choreographer" of a Broadway musical. He passed away just last year at 87.
Here is a slide show of the entire souvenir playbill:
RAISIN was also, I believe, one of the first Broadway musicals to have been developed at a regional theater. It was first produced at DC's Arena Stage by the legendary Zelda Fichandler.
This is absolutely a show that should be seen again. In the meantime the Original Cast Album captures much of show's power.
If you say "Alexa, play the album RAISIN, original Broadway cast" she will play it for you!