“Bountiful” Steps into the Spotlight

Posted November 12, 2014 by Rosalind Saul in Theater & Arts
Cicely Tyson

This season, ArtsEmerson has once more brought an all-star lineup of theatrical entertainment to their main stages. Their next production, The Trip to Bountiful, is sure to be a show stopper.

The Trip to Bountiful is an American classic by playwright Horton Foote. It premiered as a televised special on NBC on March 1, 1953 and subsequently moved to Broadway in November of that year. It ran for 39 performances at Henry Miller’s Theatre before closing and remaining generally untouched until its 2005 off-Broadway revival by the Signature Theatre Company. Eight years later, it was revived on Broadway once more and opened in April 2013 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Michael Wilson directs the new Boston run of the show, and Cicely Tyson is set to reprise her Tony Award winning role of Carrie Watts. She is supported by a cast of similarly accomplished actors: Ludie Watts, Carrie’s loving son, will be played by Golden Globe nominated actor Blair Underwood. His wife, the bossy Jessie Mae, will be portrayed by Tony and Grammy nominated singer/actress Vanessa Williams.

The play focuses on elderly Texan Carrie Watts who is currently stuck living in a Houston apartment with her loving (but cowardly) son Ludie and his shrewish wife Jessie Mae. Jessie Mae hates Carrie, and Ludie is scared to take his mother’s side in the conflict. Carrie dreams of making one last return trip to her hometown of Bountiful and finds a way to make her dream become a reality. The play tells the story of her journey as well as the individuals she meets along the way.

The Culter Majestic Theatre makes a picturesque and soaring home to this beloved production. Located in the heart of the Boston theatre district, this space is a true historic gem. The theatre first opened on February 16th, 1903 and has remained in use ever since. Architect John Galen Howard, MIT grad and one of only four hundred American architects to have been trained at Paris’ L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in the late nineteenth century, brought his own sense of functional quality to the space. He famously utilized a brand new invention to accent his arches, stained glass, and columns: the electric light bulb! 4,500 light bulbs accent the theatre’s facade, lobby, and auditorium.

While the Cutler Majestic was initially designed with theatre and opera in mind, it has also been used through the years as a house for vaudeville performance, and movie showings. Emerson College refurbished the space in the early 2000s and the final phase was completed in 2003 at which point the building had been restored to a state closely resembling its original splendor (but with the addition of new heat, air conditioning, electric systems, plumbing, and all modern conveniences).

Of course, the best way to see the Cutler Majestic is to view it in action as it was designed to be used! A Trip to Bountiful is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in American history with a nineteenth-century splendor unmatched by any other local venue. The show plays from November 20th through December 2nd (Vanessa Williams will not appear in the performance on Sunday December 6th, and Blair Underwood will not appear on Wednesday November 26th). Tickets are available via the ArtsEmerson website.