With a little glitter, a T-Bird-load of talent, some shimmery purple curtains and an enormous wood-stained Wurlitzer, The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe shakes, rattles and rolls the ’50s into living color before the eyes of a wildly enthusiastic audience. Artistic Director Nate Jacobs wrote and directed the musical revue that sketches the story of a group of entertainers who travel on the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” performing at venues from Memphis to New York. Cristy Owen provides a panoply of costumes illustrating memorable fads from the ’50s, including poodle skirts, crinolines, hair bows stuck mid-bouffant, detachable lace collars, a single strand of white pearls, T-strap shoes and sweater sets. Under the music direction of James E. Dodge II and implemented by a group of talented musicians, the swinging music is a soul-satisfying trip down memory lane.
Choreographer Dhakeria Cunningham has got the ’50s moves down and the detail in their recreation is dead-on. She also plays Corinna and delivers several delightful dance solos. The large cast includes Ariel Blue as Mama Sass, who lives up to her name in comical bouts with her rival, Lulu McKay, played by Kristal Walker. Blue is thrilling with her rendition of “Hound Dog,” in its original, pre-Elvis version. The pair rip it up with the song, “Gabbin’ Blues.”
“Hound Dog” is answered on the male side by Big Hal Hopper, played with gusto by Gordon R. Gregory, who later kicks it with “Great Balls of Fire.” Emmanuel Avraham plays T.J. Brown, the self-proclaimed “Doc of Rock,” and joins the cast for some great numbers such as “That’ll be the Day.” Michael Mendez brings his smooth moves and silky voice for “I’ll be Satisfied” as lover boy Bobby Ray. Speaking of moves, Charles Manning as Benny Burrows kills in “Stagger Lee.” Henry Washington plays Teddy Turner and knows how to “Splish Splash” and “Get a Job.” Will Little joins the cast as Jimmy, whose philandering ways inflame some jealousy. He adds to the hilarity created by the male cast’s performance of “Love Potion No. 9.”
Tsadok Porter as Kiki Carter, Alyssa White as Sherry Love, and Davronette Henson, a little gal with a huge voice as Mayella Brown, comprise a trio of female singers who are simply divine in such numbers as “Dedicated to the One I Love” and a rollicking “Mashed Potato Time.”
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