Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s “Dynamic Duets of the ’70s” is a blast from the past you won’t want to miss.
The evening began with the “hostess with the mostest,” Ruby, played by Ariel Blue, who was wearing an outfit reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s attire — a red leather jacket over a silver, beaded top; black fishnet stockings; sequined scarf; and an undersized fedora. Ruby’s amusingly suggestive repartee smoothes over the segments between some of the most sizzling duets ever sung.
Nate Jacobs, WBTT’s artistic director, conceived, adapted, directed and choreographed this “dy-no-mite” production chock-full of swooning and swinging hits. Prior to his founding this successful theater troupe, Jacobs’ original one-man comedy, “A Spoonful of Collard Greens,” was selected for the Zora Neale Hurston Festival and the National Black Theater Festival.
The talented cast in “Duets,” made up of four couples, takes the stage adorned in ’70s get-ups of all persuasions and boogies on down with period choreography designed to make the audience members swing in their seats. Among the initial numbers was a rockin’ performance of “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” in a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
Other first-act highlights feature Leon Pitts, dressed all in plaid, singing Gaye’s “You’re a Special Part of Me,” with the lithe and lovely Tsadok Porter, wearing jeans and a hippie hair band. She performs the Diana Ross part.
Pitts, who also is a founding member of WBTT, most recently was in the charming “Five Guys Named Moe.” Porter is yet another founding member. She has been appearing in area theater productions since she was 5. Porter and Jhana Cooper give a couple of male audience members a thrill when they caress the men’s cheeks while singing Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”
Cooper, a first-time mother-to-be, literally pregnant in high heels and sporting hot pants, is intrepid and electric. Her credits include numerous regional theater performances as well as her founding role in WBTT.
Nisi Pierre and Wells Fordham perform an entrancing “The Closer I Get to You.” Besides having a lovely singing vice, Pierre is a versatile actor who’s appeared in a number of WBTT productions. Fordham began his career at WBTT at age 15 in “Black Nativity.”
Act II brings us Ruby in hot pink, the men in tuxedos and the ladies in lame, rocking out to “Working at the Carwash” and “Respect Yourself.” Alyssa White and Mikeyy Mendez create heavenly harmony in “You Are My Heaven,” by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack.
Fifteen-year-old Alyssa, the new kid on the WBTT block, shows amazing talent with her big voice. She won first place two weeks running during New York City’s Apollo Theater’s amateur night, and she has won a number of area talent shows. Mendez has appeared regionally in local musicals such as “A Chorus Line” and is at work on an album.
“Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” is especially emotive as sung by Porter and Sheldon Roden. Roden recently played the lead in the theater’s highly successful production of “Marvin Gaye.” His smooth and sultry singing career originated in church choirs when he was 7.
Todd Bellamy provides hauntingly lovely keyboard action in accompanying the lush harmony of Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” The production begins to crescendo as the cast joins in with “Shake Your Groove Thing.” The audience is on its feet well before the end.
The band also features Jamar Camp on auxiliary keyboard, bassist James E. Dodge and drummer Zendel Taylor.
If You Go
What: “Dynamic Duets of the ’70s” continues through Aug. 28.
Where: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave.
Info: Call 366-1505 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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