Director Nate Jacobs adapted and wrote Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s “Best of Stevie Wonder,” the energetic, finger-snapping show, which wrapped up this weekend.
“Who doesn’t love Stevie Wonder?” Jacobs asked. “He is truly a performer who is loved and admired by music fans of all ages.” I wholeheartedly concur, and the rocking production featuring an ensemble cast of eight singers from the troupe does the iconic singer/songwriter proud. The cast recalls some of his life as they segue from one dynamic presentation of his music to the next. One of the most creative musical icons of the late 20th century, Stevie Wonder recorded more than 30 U.S. top-10 hits and received 22 Grammy awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist. Among the favorite tunes that span over 40 years of musical history, the audience will remember, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Living for the City,” “Ribbon in the Sky,” “Master Blaster” and may be introduced to many more they haven’t heard.
As usual at WBTT, the music, the singing and choreography, under the direction of Jacobs, are fabulous fun to witness. Talented Naarai Jacobs is featured in this production, and her powerful voice is highlighted in a duet with her father, “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Sheldon Roden, memorable as the lead in WBTT’s “Marvin Gaye,” performed an outstanding “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” Newcomer Derric Gobourne Jr. is adorable in the non-singing role of little Stevie Wonder, with his sly dance moves and sunglasses. Dynamic Michael Mendez rocked “Do I Do,” and Ariel Blue was delightful as always with the soulful “Heaven Help Us All.” Tsadok Porter reached a new high with “Higher Ground.” Charming newcomer Henry Washington delivered a sweet “My Cherie Amour.” Wonder’s iconic “You are the Sunshine of My Life” was graced by Nisi Pierre’s rendition.
My favorite number was “Superstition,” which was dynamically performed by the entire ensemble. Costume designer Cristy Owen outfitted the group with plenty of creative period eye candy; and under the direction of James (Jay) E. Dodge II, the superb musicians included J.L. Cash, Jamar Camp and Etienne Porter.