Suzan-Lori Parks to Write Book of Ray Charles Musical

Stuart Benjamin, Joe Adams and Howard and Karen Baldwin, the producers of the upcoming Broadway musical based on the life of Ray Charles, will now have a Pulitzer Prize-winner on the show's creative team. Suzan-Lori Parks, who won the prestigious prize in 2002 for her play Topdog/Underdog, has signed on to write Ray's book.

Benjamin and the Baldwins produced last year's film biopic, on which the musical will be somewhat based; earlier this year, they had purchased the rights to it from Ray Charles Estate and Ray Charles Enterprises. Adams was the soul legend's manager for many years. Charles, who broke open racial boundaries as a musician and who pioneered a new sound with its roots in gospel, died on June 10th, 2004--a few months before the film was released.

According to Benjamin, Parks was the first playwright they had considered:
"Her dialogue is wonderful, and she puts her words together like a symphony," he told Variety. According to the trade paper, "
The stage project will span Charles' career, combining his music with personal, business, political and charitable relationships." Charles' (who went blind at an early age) hit songs include "What'd I Say?," "I Can't Stop Loving You," and "Hit the Road Jack."

Parks' Topdog/Underdog told the tale of the volatile relationship between two brothers named Booth and Lincoln, both of whom feel that their opportunities have been limited because of race but who deal with their feelings differently. The play was also nominated for a Tony Award, and her previous plays--Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom and Venus--each won an Obie Award. She was also a Pulitzer finalist for her play In the Blood (a modern take on The Scarlet Letter), and she has also written an adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt.

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