Total Rating: 
June 21, 2017
July 23, 2017
West Coast Black Theater Troupe
Theater Type: 
WBBT Theater
Theater Address: 
1646 Tenth Way
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 30 min
Musical Revue
Conceived/Adaptation: Nate Jacobs. Songs by various artists
Nate Jacobs
Donald Frison

African Americans impacted Broadway through performances and literary and musical creations that significantly contributed to the American theater and culture. Broadway in Black celebrates this contribution by reproducing parts of it in musicals and highlighting — through exemplary entertainment — their importance.

From 1921’s Shuffle Along to later Broadway hits like The Color Purple and Dreamgirls, black composers and lyricists made their mark and developed stars emulated in WBTT’s tribute. Women like Syreeta Banks and Ariel Blue rank with the best of Broadway’s blues artists and belters with The Duke’s “Mood Indigo” or later in solos like “Momma will Provide” and “No Bad News.”

JoAnna Ford shows true operatic talent early with “Summertime” from the white Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. But she’s also great joining Syreeta and Ariel on Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” or on her own with “Weary” and “Home.” In solos, Cherise James commands Ellington’s “Hit Me With a Hot Note” as well as “Purlie” by the lead character from the show of the same name. She soon joins JoAnna and Syreeta to proclaim “We Are Dreamgirls.”

Raleigh Mosely, II comes on strong singing “Old Man River” written by whites, as does Brian Boyd with “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” They join Donald Frison, Michael Mendez, and Josehua Thompson on “Five Guys Named Moe,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” and “Is You is or is You ain’t My Baby” — with not only fine vocal work but outstanding dancing. Frison’s dynamic choreography hits a new high in this show, where he shows himself a master of his own creations.

The Male Ensemble distinguishes itself in the show tune “First Things Monday Morning.” Michael Mendez shows why he’s a local favorite with “How Ya Baby” and cavorting as Black Oz’s Wizard. Syreeta leads the company in the outstanding end of Part I, “Roll Jordon Roll.” It seems almost a miracle that the company is still full of verve with an “On Broadway Reprise” of some length at the end of the production.

As usual, costumes are many and gorgeous with the swift changes a marvel. The difficult lighting keeps pace with the moves so well directed by Nate Jacob. His narrative is always to the point, making a long show seem less so. Each number is so well received that it’s understandable why Nate Jacob felt he could not cut any. Kudos to him and all who realized his vision, artistically and technically.

Syreta S. Banks, Ariel Blue, Brian L. Boyd, Keenan Carver, JoAnna Ford, Donald Frison, Derric Gobourne, Jr., Cherise James, Michael Mendez, Raleigh Mosely, II, Joshua Thompson; Band: LaTerry Butler (also Music Director), Jamar Camp, Donald “Snoopy” Watts
Music Consultant: Tony Moon; Costumes: Patricia Gregory; Lighting: Ryan E. Finzelber; Sound: Patrick Russini; Props: Annette Breazeale; Wigs: Joyce Ward; Production Stage Manager: Juanita Munford
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
June 2017