Whoopi Goldberg missed the Tuesday, February 11 performance of August Wilson's due to a bout with the flu and will miss both performances today (Wednesday). According to a spokesman, it is hoped that the star will be well enough to perform tomorrow evening but no definite decision has yet been made.
Appearing as the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey in Goldberg's place is Ebony Jo-Ann, who recently was seen in Crowns at Second Stage. Jo-Ann has also appeared on Broadway in The Sunshine Boys, Mule Bone, and the original 1984 production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, in which she understudied the roles of Ma Rainey and her lover, Dussie Mae.
Goldberg's absence has caused the rescheduling of second and third night reviewer performances from this week to next week. Her illness follows a number of other difficulties the revival has experienced: Two actors were replaced prior to previews, and both performer Carl Gordon (who plays Cutler) and director Marion McClinton were hospitalized prior to opening night. Also, Goldberg and co-star Charles S. Dutton -- who is recreating his original Broadway role -- have gone on record as being unhappy about certain aspects of the production. The cast of the show also includes Louis Zorich, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Tony Cucci, Jack Davidson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Anthony Mackie, and Heather Alicia Simms.
In his review of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, TheaterMania's David Finkle wrote, "Anyone looking to understand Wilson needs to notice that he not only writes as a music lover who includes songs as integral elements of his plays; he goes further than that, writing his own brand of prose musical. It's certainly evident in the patchy, reportedly plagued-by-dissension revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."