BWW Reviews: Vienna Carroll's SINGIN WID A SWORD IN MA HAN
The West Harlem Library Series and Green GURL Productions presented Singin Wid a Sword in Ma Han on Saturday October 26, 2013 at the George Bruce Branch library.
Singin Wid a Sword in Ma Han is described as a Underground Railroad love story created by Vienna Carroll, playwright, producer, singer and lead actor in the play. This musical docudrama is set in the 1850's in a church in Columbia, PA, where enslaved Africans gather and brilliantly plot an escape route from church to church and hand to hand, along with a supportive community both black and white.
Singin interweaves spirituals as escape songs to gain strength and overcome insurmountable odds with vigor and harmonies that would lift any soul even today.
Although the story of the Underground Railroad is familiar, powerhouse Vienna Carroll, who plays Topper, is the consummate storyteller; her genius is reflected in her ability to tell an often horrific tale through words and through song in a mezzo soprano voice that is both reverberating and sweet; she makes you trust her the entire journey.
Singin was once a one woman show starring Vienna Carroll until director Keith E. Johnston collaborated with Carroll. Together they created a grander vision combining the talents of Rod Singleton (Ben, Nate, Conductor) LaVonda Elam (Lene, Dorey, Davey, Massa Patison,) Paula Galloway (Linda, Mizz Kessie) Glenn Gordon (Nsangou) - (Tad, Overseer, Carlisle, Cato, Maroon) and Henrique Prince (Fiddle, vocals) , who Carroll calls her Griot chorus to sing, recite and dance the tale of a people often misjudged as victims. The truth of the enslaved Africans character and spirit was heard clearly from the harmony of the Griot chorus singing perseverancevsongs such as Keep A-Inchin Along, Chilly Water and Ride On Moses to name a few.
Singin was a sixty minute work with a thirty minute Q & A following, where the magic of the performers continued as the actors jumped into the roles of educators, when they sat intimately along The Edge of the stage captivating the audience with tale after tale of the enslaved Africans genius and how they were not victims; their history includes 400 turbulent years of resistance, rebellion and escape. Vienna Carroll wrote a tale of a happy ending where enslaved people banned together, plotted an escape with other people and were victorious.
I asked producer Orlando Rivera why the play was only one hour and he said, "We only wanted to whet your appetite"; I want him to know that we are all hungry for more.
More On: URL Productions, LaVonda Elam, Paula Galloway, Glenn Gordon, The Edge.