NEW YORK (AP) — The other night at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Cuba Gooding Jr. came bounding onto the stage.
He had already put in two solid hours performing in "The Trip to Bountiful," but heard a group of people had stayed after the show to speak to some of the creators.
He also had heard that some in the group were Morgan Stanley bankers.
"It's time for you all to show me the money!" he cracked.
The bankers all burst out laughing after hearing the signature line that earned Gooding an Oscar. He then posed for pictures and signed their programs.
"He is still in essence a big kid in a man's body. That energy and that warmth and that humor is infectious," says director Michael Wilson, who watched the scene. "And it's all genuine. None of it is put on."
Meeting Gooding bears that out — there's a youthful energy to the 45-year-old that practically buzzes as he makes his professional stage debut. The last time he performed live was in high school, but it's where he was first inspired.
"This is what made me fall in love with acting. Now it's like I'm living that again and I finally feel awakened," he says. "That euphoria of doing roles is what I was born from."
Gooding co-stars in the revival of Horton Foote's masterpiece about — appropriately enough — getting back home. He stars opposite Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Condola Rashad and Tom Wopat.
Tyson plays an elderly widow who shares a cramped two-room apartment in Houston with her devoted son, played by Gooding, and overbearing daughter-in-law, played by Williams. The widow soon steals away on a bus to Bountiful, a tiny farming town where she spent her youth, in hopes of recapturing her vitality and purpose.