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‘The Piano Lesson’ recoups

The revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play closed in January 2023.

(L-R) Michael Potts, John David Washington and Ray Fisher in the 2022 revival of “The Piano Lesson” (Credit: Julieta Cervantes)

The Tony Award-nominated revival of “The Piano Lesson” has recouped its investment. Broadway’s first revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work began previews on Sept. 19, 2022, and opened on Oct. 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The production completed its extended limited run on Jan. 29, 2023, after 27 previews and 124 performances.

The production’s initial capitalization was $7 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Whether the production recouped upon closing or sometime afterward remains unclear.

Directed by Tony nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson, “The Piano Lesson” starred Tony nominees Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker Charles and Danielle Brooks as Berniece, as well as John David Washington as Boy Willie. The opening-night cast also featured Trai Byers as Avery, Ray Fisher as Lymon, April Matthis as Grace and Michael Potts as Wining Boy, with Nadia Daniel and Jurnee Elizabeth Swan alternating in the role of Maretha.

The production marked the first time a work by August Wilson has been helmed by a female director on Broadway.

“We are immensely grateful to LaTanya Richardson Jackson for her singular vision,” lead producer Brian Anthony Moreland acknowledged in a statement. “Her ability to so vibrantly expose Wilson’s masterwork to a whole new generation of theater lovers is what made this production a hit. Kudos to her, our wonderful cast and our amazing co-producing team.”

The mounting was nominated for a 2023 Best Revival of a Play Tony Award; Samuel L. Jackson was also nominated for his featured performance.

In the weeks following its October 2023 opening, the revival consistently grossed in excess of $800,000 for eight-performance weeks. In its final two weeks on the Main Stem, it grossed $1.1 million and $1.3 million during the weeks ending Jan. 22 and 29, 2023, respectively.

Part of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays, “The Piano Lesson” takes place in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1936. The drama follows two siblings as they disagree over the fate of their family’s beloved piano. The prop piano used in the revival is now on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“The Piano Lesson” was produced on Broadway by Moreland, Sonia Friedman, Tom Kirdahy, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker.