Since breaking into the mainstream with Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tituss Burgess has been plotting a return to his musical theater roots, albeit in a significantly different role than just performer.
Burgess acquired the rights to The Preacher’s Wife last year and has composed the music and lyrics for a stage musical adaptation, which will now feature a new book by Azie Dungey (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and direction by rising talent Michael Arden (2015’s Spring Awakening and this season’s Once on This Island).
The Preacher’s Wife, which is based on the 1996 film (which is itself based on a 1947 Cary Grant movie, based on a 1928 book), tells the story of a beleaguered church pastor and his neglected wife and son, whose emotional lives become entangled with an angel sent by God to help the family. The 1996 film, which featured a score of gospel showstoppers, starred Denzel Washington as the angel, Dudley; Courtney B. Vance as the preacher, Henry; and Whitney Houston as the preacher’s wife, Julia.
An industry reading will take place Dec. 11 in New York City, where the assembled cast will include Loretta Devine, who received a NAACP Image Award for her role as church secretary Beverly in the 1996 film; here, she will play Julia’s mother. Nine-time Grammy nominee Ledisi will play Julia, the role made famous by Whitney Houston.
The rest of the reading’s cast includes Quentin Earl Darrington (Henry Biggs), Donald Webber (Dudley), Alan H. Green (Joe Hamilton), Jian Harrell (Jeremiah), Abebaw Silver (Hakeem), Clifton Davis (Deacon Lewis), Gerry McIntyre (Deacon Johnson), Q. Smith (Delphine Lewis/Beverly), and Ashley Jenkins (Ilona Johnson).
Burgess appeared on Broadway in Good Vibrations and Jersey Boys before landing a breakout role as Sebastian the crab in The Little Mermaid; for his work on Kimmy Schmidt, the actor and singer was nominated for three Emmys and a SAG Award.