This lively, spirit-lifting musical celebrates the sheer joy – and survival – of black music, song and poetry since the days of America’s Civil War. Stars Tony® winners Cleavant Derricks (Dreamgirls) and the late Lynne Thigpen (An American Daughter, The District).
This Vinnette Carroll production, brought to life by a talented 8-member troupe of singers and dancers, features a combination of poetry and song which reflects the African-American experience. Inspiring, at the same time that it is an indictment of the treatment black America endured over the ages, the production celebrates the ultimate triumph of the rich and varied African-American culture.
With music created and directed by Tony Award winner Cleavant Derricks and his twin brother Clinton Derricks-Carroll, the revue showcases the performers and their melodies and rhythms, rather than musical instruments. Hand-clapping, simple drums, and a single piano or sax often provide the only accompaniment.
Joyful and enthusiastic, the music ranges from early chants and marches, as in “When the Colored Band Comes Marching Down the Street,” through folk dance, gospel, revival music, blues, and disco. The late Lynne Thigpen is the female anchor, doing a passionate blues solo, her voice a contrast to the soprano of Lynne Clifton-Allen, who “just spreads her mouth and shouts, ‘Come to Jesus'” in a gospel song. Clevant Derricks is a powerful interpreter/singer throughout, as is his twin, Clinton Derricks-Carroll, whose stirring bass/baritone inspires both the live audience and the viewer.
The production contains almost as much poetry as it does music, with poems by Countee Cullen, Julian Bond, Nikki Giovanni, and Langston Hughes, among others, enacted by the talented cast. Sometimes humorous and satiric, the poems range from the elegantly expressed to the vernacular, always showcasing attitudes and events which have led to moments of triumph, including domestic triumph. Gracefully blending songs, dance, and poetry, the revue creates a moving and comprehensive tribute to the enduring spirit of Black America. As one singer attests, “You can’t put out the fiery spirit [of] my soul.” (Mary Whipple)