Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Black Rep: Tell Me Something Good

Last weekend my sister and I went to the The Black Rep to see the first production of their 32nd season, Tell Me Something Good. It was a fun night that took us through the history of R&B in the form of a musical review. A ten member cast of six women and four men sang and danced and sweated their way through more than 60 songs, starting with the doo wop and ending in the present day.

The cast was very good, four of the women and all four men doing most of the singing and the two other women leading the dancing and soloing through many of the numbers. I wish I had saved the program so that I could give everyone credit by name.

The women all had wonderful voices. But if it was a contest we gave the night to the men. The women were singers. The men were also singers but two of the men were also actors and that made the difference. They created roles within the songs they sang and that gave us humor and pathos to watch. J. Samuel Davis, who has been with The Black Rep for years was one of the men and I always enjoy his performances. I always forget that he can sing because I've seen him in so many dramatic productions.

I used to have season tickets to The Black Rep with a friend but, as will happen, she had a few kids and found it difficult to get away so we let the tickets lapse. I'm thinking about picking up a subscription again; this performance reminded me how much I always enjoy their productions. Over the years they've done all of the August Wilson repertoire and other very good dramatic and comedic plays, sprinkled with well-done musicals.

Unfortunately for those reading this now, the production of Tell me Something Good ended last weekend so you can't catch it. The next production, opening February 18, is A Song for Coretta, a relatively new play by Pearl Cleage that premiered in 2007.

Inspired by the long line of mourners who came by Ebenezer Baptist Church to pay their respects to Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the play introduces five fictional African-American women, aged 17 to 57, waiting in the rain to say their good-byes.

The theme for the 32nd season is The Year of the Woman and each of the three dramatic plays in the middle of the five-play season has a cast of all women. The third production of the year will be another relatively new play by Cori Thomas, The Secret Language of Wishes:

The play touches on the meaning of unconditional love without distinctions such as black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight. Jo, a lawyer and the play's main character, learns the meaning of love without boundaries as she engages in a legal dispute between two women- a young white and a black business woman - over the custody of a disabled black teenager.

The fourth play, In the Continuum, explores the problem of HIV/AIDS. They finish up with another musical, Blues in the Night, a "dynamite 'dramatic revue' of twenty-six hot and steamy numbers that tell of the sweet, sexy and sorrowful experiences three delicious women have with one very lonely, lying, cheating snake of a man who does them wrong! "

When I went to look for a youtube with a clip of something that The Black Rep has done I found this extended piece that Public Television did five years ago before the start of the 28th season and, amazingly enough, they were rehearsing that year's production of "Tell Me Something Good", the SAME show that I saw last weekend. The costumes were different and the choreography was different but the songs are the same - so it will give you a good idea of what I saw. Also, part of the clip is an interview with the actor J. Samuel Davis who was also in that production.