BWW Review: GIRL GROUPS THE 60'S EXPLOSION at Westcoast Black Theatre
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has a hit on their hands worthy of a Broadway stage. Reminiscent of revered song-centered musicals such as Motown and Jersey Boys, Girl Groups The 60's Explosion not only features treasured songs, but also delivers a long overdue tribute to African-American women who sang and danced their way into our hearts in the 1960's. With memorable tunes like Dancin' in the Street, Chapel of Love, Mr. Postman, Keep Me Hangin' On and Proud Mary, don't plan on a quiet evening, being bored or sitting still. It ain't gonna happen! Not tonight. You are going to find yourself, and your neighbors, tapping your toes, singing along, clapping, (sometimes to the beat), and shouting out positive affirmations to the four incredible ladies performing with all they have.
Created and adapted by Director/Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Girl Groups The 60's Explosion is just what the title declares- an explosion! Accomplished cast members Syreeta S. Banks, Ariel Blue, JoAnna Ford and Khadija "Kat" Sallet ignite this burst of sound. The program allows each woman to shine in her own right through various solos and then brings them together in brilliantly tight harmonies. Ms. Ford embodies Diana Ross in her feature number Keep Me Hangin On, Ms. Sallet was delightful singing Baby Love, Ms. Banks radiated through River Deep, Mountain High and Ms. Blue brought the house down in her rendition of Tina Turner's Proud Mary. Woven between songs is occasionAl Small talk and joking between the girls that adds a touch of fun. They also break the 4th wall and speak to the audience, inviting them to sing or clap. From time to time they express how it felt traveling back then and putting marriage and family on hold. They reveal their record labels and managers made millions while they made hundreds, yet they still gave it all they had and were proud to be a part of the girl groups music scene.
Choreographer Donald Frison, obviously mindful that a stagnant stage can often cause eyestrain for the audience if the performers don't keep moving. He cleverly used every bit of the stage and a few props to keep things flowing and interesting. Under his talented choreography the ladies moved in synchronicity to several song routines then effortlessly broke away to grace different sides of the nicely lit, tiered stage. Costume designer, Christy Owen was true to the vintage look of the 60's in her rendering of several costume changes in which the ladies glowed.
Thanks to groups like The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Shangri-Las, and The Shirelles, their contribution will live on forever. Kudos to Nate Jacobs, executive director Julie Leach, and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe for paying homage to the amazing girl groups of the 1960's and keeping their dream alive.
Girl Groups The 60's Explosion runs through April 9, 2017. For more information visit: www.westcoastblacktheatre.org.
Fun fact: Did you know The Supremes were originally called The Primettes? They were the female version of the Temptations who back then were knows as The Primes.