Tyler Perry adapting new 'Madea' play for the big screen
Fans of Madea, take cover. The silver-haired, pistol-packing African American matron with zero tolerance for insubordination is returning to movie screens next year.
Tyler Perry is turning his new play, "Madea's Big Happy Family," into a motion picture, according to Lionsgate, which will distribute the film in the U.S. The play, which stars Perry in the title role, is currently touring the country and already played in Los Angeles at the Kodak Theater and in New York at Madison Square Garden.
Lionsgate said in a news release Wednesday that it has acquired the rights to "Madea's Big Happy Family" and that it will release the film April 22, 2011.
The drama focuses on a middle-aged single mother named Miss Shirley (performed on stage by Chandra Currelley), who has just received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With the help of Madea, she assembles her grown children (and their significant others) for one final reunion, during which loyalties are tested and unpleasant truths are spilled.
Like many of Perry's stage plays, "Big Happy Family" features musical numbers and direct addresses to the audience by Madea.
Lionsgate is currently working with Perry on another theatrical adaptation -- the big-screen version of the Obie-winning play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. The movie will begin shooting this summer in Atlanta and is set to open in January.
Many of Perry's movies began their lives as plays that he wrote and subsequently performed on tour. The writer-director-actor has played Madea on stage in comedies such as "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea's Family Reunion."
Perry has declined interview requests in recent months while appearing in "Big Happy Family." After the opening night performance at the Kodak in January, he said that he wrote the play in memory of his mother, who had recently passed away.
"Big Happy Family" will conclude its national tour in the coming weeks with engagements in Philadelphia; Columbus and Toledo, Ohio; and Detroit.
-- David Ng
Photo: Tyler Perry. Credit: Jessica Rinaldi / Associated Press