Thursday, March 14, 2013

REVIEW: 'FELA!'

On Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, I sat in The Merriam Theatre as both press and a true fan of the theatre. Popular demand has encouraged producers Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jay Z and Stephen and Ruth Hendel to bring the national touring production of 'FELA!' back to the City of Brotherly Love. Watching, I felt as if I was 'na de Shrine' and I'm sure that's what director and choreographer Bill T. Jones had in mind with this production.

Set in The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria, 'FELA!' is a show inside of a show that centers on Fela Kuti, an outward opposer of the corrupt and repressive military dictatorships that ruled Nigeria and much of Africa during the late 70's.  Fela Kuti created Afrobeat, a mixture of eclectic drums with lyrics to reflect his feelings towards oppression. His name became known across the world, however, The Shrine was his club, his world.
 Adesola Osakalumi in FELA by Sharen Bradford
Fela himself, played by Adelsola Osakalumi, was overflowing with character so it's no question why people chose to flock to his club or why women chose to flock to his side. With a charismatic cast of Queens in his entourage we saw Fela Kuti come alive on the Merriam Theatre stage. Fela was known to poke fun at his audience and Osakalumi did just that, all while still in character.
 
Melanie Marshall and Sahr Ngaujah by Tristram Kenton

Breathtaking solos from Melanie Marshall cast as Fela's mother Funmilayo, tugged at my heart strings while the tit for tat duets with his wife Sandra Isadore, played by Michelle Williams, made me want to get out and fight a cause.
Michelle Williams and Adesola Osakalumi by Carol Rosegg
 
The stage was used well during this production and I encourage everyone to purchase tickets before the final show on Sunday. This story is based on more than the creation of a new genre of music. This is a tale of history, brightened by colorful fabrics and high notes, but the story remains the same. Following the course of true events, at one point the audience sits on the edge of their seats, shocked at the reality of Fela's compound being raided by the Army and the torture of his Queens and mother. You can't resist responding to this production. I gasped. I laughed. And I also left more informed about Fela Kuti and Nigerian culture.
 FELA  by Monique Carboni
The cast was convincing, the band brought the score alive, and Gelan Lambert's tap dancing added a fun element. 'FELA!' is a MUST SEE! For tickets, head over to kimmelcenter.org or ticketphiladelphia.org, by calling 215-893-1999. The show is here for limited time only!

-Nola Darling

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

REVIEW: Arden Theatre Company's: 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Joilet F. Harris as Lena Younger in Arden Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo: Mark Garvin

 "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"


This question silently echoes through the audience during the Arden Theatre Company's production of "A Raisin in the Sun.' This historical tale takes us almost day by day through the 'dreams' of the Younger family as they await the delivery of a life insurance check. With the title pulled from the lines of one of Langston Hughes' most popular works, we witness the Younger family's dreams being threatened. 

L-R: Jaleesa Capri as Beneatha Younger, U.R. as Walter Lee Younger, Joilet F. Harris as Lena Younger, Nikki E. Walker as Ruth Younger, Yannick Haynes as Travis Younger in Arden Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo: Mark Garvin

Set inside the Younger's home in South Side Chicago during the 1950s, we meet Walter Lee Younger (played by U.R.) who lives with his wife Lena (Joilet F. Harris). Their son Travis (Yannick Haynes) sleeps on the couch while his mother Ruth (Nikki E. Walker) and sister Beneatha (Jaleesa Capri) share a room. With so many opinions under one roof you can be sure this money will cause some tension. However, it is the family's final decision to purchase a house in the all-white-Clybourne Park neighborhood that shakes their familythe most. Lessons are learned and emotions are high in this intimate stage production. The performances were believable and the simplicity of the set allowed you to get a true feel for the Younger's living situation. 

U.R. as Walter Lee Younger in Arden Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo: Mark Garvin

Written by Lorraine Hansberry and Directed by Walter Dallas, "A Raisin in the Sun" paved the way for the African American voice to be heard on stage. These performers did an excellent job of expressing that voice. It's sometimes difficult to produce such a popular piece but it was done well on the F. Otto Haas Stage.

L-R: Joilet F. Harris as Lena Younger, Yannick Haynes as Travis Younger, Leonard C. Haas as Karl Lindner, Nikki E. Walker as Ruth Younger, U.R. as Walter Lee Younger, and Jaleesa Capri as Beneatha Younger in Arden Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun. Phtoto: Mark Garvin

This was my first time attending an Arden Theatre Company production but I enjoyed the intimacy of the theater. Although the space is larger than some local theatres the performance seemed more up close and personal. I attended opening night and the audience was packed. Due to such a positive response the play has been extended through April 21st, 2013. The Arden Theatre Company has produced this performance as part of it's 25th Anniversary Season so be sure to expect some performance extras.* There are discounts for students, seniors, military, educators, teens and children. Rush tickets^ and group rates are available as well. Visit the website at www.ardentheatre.orgor call the box office at 215-922-1122. Visit in person at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City.

L-R: Yannick Haynes as Travis Younger, Joilet F. Harris as Lena Younger, and Nikki E. Walker as Ruth Younger in Arden Theatre Company's production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo: Mark Garvin


*POST SHOW DISCUSSIONS
THURS, MARCH 21ST 8PM
SUN, MARCH 24TH 2PM
WED, MARCH 27TH 6:30PM
WED, APRIL 3RD 6:30PM
SUN, APRIL 7TH 2PM

*CAPTIONED PERFORMANCES: 
APRIL 12TH 2013 8PM
APRIL 13TH 2013 2PM

*AUDIO DESCRIBED PERFORMANCES:
APRIL 12TH A 8PM
APRIL 13TH AT 2PM

^ Student rush tickets available at the door 30 minutes before curtain for $10 cash, pending availability. Must present valid student ID.

---Nola Darling

Guess Who's Bizack?

I totally need to clean this place up. It looks a mess. Let me apologize for this. I promise you by March 23rd when the site officially launches you won't have to look at this...mess of words. But in the meantime and in between time, this is it. This is going to be an AMAZING week. Covering FELA, A Raisin In The Sun, attending a Melanie Fiona concert and a spoken word event. Some say busy, i say material!!! I've been meaning to get back in the groove of writing just because instead of only writing reviews and I think I'm back. But it doesn't hurt that i have a couple reviews to show you guys too! I'm writing this from my office in New York so if you took the time to read my previous post then clearly things at work are going well. I regret deleting all posts before that but I promise to make up for it with quality posts in the future. I should be eating lunch right now instead I'm click clacking away. I wanted to get up close and personal with you guys before I hit you with my FELA review which I'll post tomorrow. I've said enough. Good day good people :)

Bold, Brown, & Beautiful

"She's cute for a dark skinned girl."  "Stop acting light skinned." We've heard all these phrases. ...