It’s no wonder, then, that after watching the TV version, you’ll be wishing that you had seen it all unfurl on stage, and hopefully that opportunity will come again. I’d even be eager to see Combs take another crack at it, but not before taking on some less demanding characters and a few ensemble works such as "Much Ado About Nothing." Like Willie Lee Younger, he’s got the potential; it’s the patience that’s the question.
Overall, this "Raisin" is a proud, important addition to the history of stage adaptations for TV, one that could touch many more millions of people than ever saw the play, thanks both to its star power and the reach of the medium.
This three-hour production, starring most of the cast of the 2004 Broadway revival, flies by with lightning speed — and that cast led by Ms. Rashad, superbly authoritative, impossibly attractive as Lena, is no small part of the reason. Ms. McDonald is heartbreaking as Ruth, desperate to understand her husband’s descent into misery, and Mr. Combs, who portrays that husband, delivers a sterling performance. Some raisins can apparently endure through time without ever drying up.
Still, as good as he can be, Combs is eclipsed by other performances, especially Rashad. But all the actors are working with fine material. Paris Qualles’ adaptation of the Hansberry play does make some unnecessary concessions to screen life, particularly when it tries to show us the characters’ activities outside that cramped little apartment. But as it goes along, director Kenny Leon pulls us ever more tightly into their world, and their hearts.
The network TV-movie is only dead until the next group of dedicated artists comes along to breathe life into it. And life abounds — in all its frustrations and hopes, fears and joys — in ABC’s intimate and powerfully moving remake of Lorraine Hansberry’s stage classic A Raisin in the Sun, reuniting the main cast of the 2004 Broadway revival.