Mandy Patinkin, who was to take over the lead role in Broadway show “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” from black actor Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan has voluntarily stepped down, putting the Broadway show at risk for closure.
Onaodowan was to finish his run as Pierre on Sept. 4 but had his 9 week run cut short by Patinkin. The former “Hamilton” star announced early Friday morning that Aug. 13 would be his last performance. Many in the theater community saw the move as a badly handled decision that pushed aside an actor of color.
However, Patinkin told the New York Times Friday afternoon that he’d chosen to withdraw from the show after the backlash.
“My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor. I have heard what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show,” Patinkin said in his statement.
‘Great Comet’ star Okieriete Onaodowan replaced by Mandy Patinkin
Critics of the choice to replace Onaodowan with Patinkin were never against the legendary Tony award-winning actor. They simply saw it as unfair that Onaodowan, particularly as an actor of color, was asked to cut his tenure short for a white actor.
“Great Comet” composer Dave Malloy took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to confirm that the decision was an effort to raise money for the show after Ingrid Michaelson, currently starring as Sonya, finished her run.
“the show was in desperate shape; sales after ingrid leaving Aug 13 were catastrophically low. show would have closed. it’s a weird show. turns out it needs a name to sell it…I am not sure that the show has a future now,” Malloy said.
The show’s Twitter account similarly released an apologetic statement, written by producer Howard Kagan, apologizing for the decision as well. “We had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community.”
Tony Awards nominations: ‘The Great Comet’ leads with 12 nods
Malloy also apologized for the “optics,” saying he’d done it before with actress Brittain Ashford, who left the show recently to make way for Michaelson.
Producers of “Great Comet” said that Patinkin wanted to be in the show and Onaodowan “graciously agreed to make room” for Patinkin to be in the show surrounding his “Homeland” schedule, sparking a social media discussion on actors of color being asked to move aside. Artists like Rafael Casal and Cynthia Erivo spoke out in support of Onaodowan and fans followed with the hashtag “#makeroomforoak.”
Onaodowan tweeted earlier Friday that he would not be returning to “Great Comet” after his Aug. 13 final performance, so it is unclear who will take over after mid-August or if Onaodowan will remain on until Sept. 4 as originally planned.
Send a Letter to the Editor