REVIEW by Willard Manus

Limelight Editions has just published a book about thelaunching--against all odds--of the landmark African-American drama A Raisin in the Sun in 1959. YOU CAN'T DO THAT ON BROADWAY by Philip Rose, who discovered the Lorraine Hansberry play and raised the money to produce it, is a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of how Raisin broke through racial and critical barriers and became a long-running hit, winning plaudits for everyone associated with it, especially Hansberry, who went from unknown to famous playwright, practically overnight.

It took Rose, an idealistic young white guy from New York, four years to raise the $100,000 needed to mount Raisin. With no previous experience in theatre, he fought hard for the play, refusing to listen to those Broadway "experts" who insisted white people would not pay to see a black play that didn't contain song n' dance. He also ignored those who insisted it would be impossible to find a group of experienced black actors--and a star to head the cast.

Rose confounded them all by signing Sidney Poitier as headliner, with Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Ivan Dixon and (the then- unknown) Alan Alda backing him up. A few years later the civil rights movement exploded many of the chains that imprisoned black Americans. Credit Raisin (and Rose) with having helped usher in an historic era of social change and justice.