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Broadway Blog - Shafrika, The White Girl & Euan Morton at The Metropolitan Room

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Below are BroadwayWorld.com's blogs from Thursday, June 25, 2009. Catch up below on anything that you might have missed from BroadwayWorld.com's bloggers!

Shafrika, The White Girl & Euan Morton at The Metropolitan Room
by Michael Dale - June 25, 2009

 

While collectors of musical theatre trivia may be quick to mention that Anika Larsen - the cherubic-looking blonde with the belty R&B voice - was the only performer to be in both the original Broadway cast of Xanadu and the original Off-Broadway cast of Zanna, Don't!, it's her unusual upbringing that supplies the real fun facts in her very enjoyable and even thought-provoking bio-musical, Shafrika, The White Girl.

The first child born of a pair of Norwegian-American 1970s liberals who believed in population control and getting American troops out of Vietnam, Anika was actually the fourth addition to the Larsen family, coming after three of her six adopted siblings and before her three biological ones.  This racially mixed bunch (each given a Norwegian name in an effort to create a family identity) could teach Mike and Carol Brady a lesson or two about the realities of blended families.

Written by Larsen and co-conceived by director April Nickell, the small but abundantly fun and energetic production is played in style that suggests theatre for teenage audiences, but deals with issues we don't necessarily grow out of.  A company of 13 actors, all appearing to be in their early 20s, play her brothers, sisters, parents, friends and relatives in an exploration of how growing up in an ethnically mixed family in an integrated school district of Cambridge, Massachusetts shielded her from the realities of race issues.  (A telling clip from a family home movie shows Anika and six of her siblings, all under 7, singing a boisterous chorus of "We Shall Overcome.")  Her adolescent loss of innocence comes in the form of a co-worker assuming he can tell racist jokes in her presence.  Her love of soul and R&B music wins her a spot in her college's gospel choir and even though she's given the solo spot at a concert for Black Solidarity Day, it hurts her to realize she could never fully be a part of the culture that created the music and poetry she was raised on.

A running conflict throughout the evening has the author trying to edit out scenes she'd prefer not to revisit (like the time she first felt uncomfortable talking to one of her brothers about their difference in skin color) but giving in when the ensemble insists that darker family secrets be revealed.  (Larsen does mention in the text that every family member has been given a copy of the script to read.)  But Shafrika, The White Girl (the title comes from a hip urban image of herself the author first uses to describe the difference between her inside and her outside) reveals more during its musical moments.  There's the eerily satisfied look the mother (Amanda Hunt) has as her children sing "Ebony & Ivory" during a long car trip.  And the competition for attention in the schoolyard as the girls show off more than just their rhyming skills while chanting "Shake Ya Booty."  Larsen contributes lyrics to songs like an intentionally sappy duet, "If You're Just Like Me" (music by Tim Acito) that reveals her parents as naively idealistic and "Be A Light" (music by Joshua Henry) that provides the upbeat conclusion.

Coincidently, Shafrika, The White Girl opens in New York the same week that a popular singer staring in a major New York production of The Wiz received many critical pans for her lack of acting ability.  Though it's doubtful Anika Larsen will ever get the same opportunity to play Dorothy, she's certainly got the chops for the role.

Photo of Anika Larsen & Company by Corey Hayes

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The flag of Scotland hangs proudly behind Euan Morton during his quite charming and sincerely patriotic stint at The Metropolitan Room called Caledonia: Songs For The Homecoming.  This being the 250th Anniversary of the birth of poet and songwriter, Robert Burns, Scotland has declared 2009 as "The Year of the Homecoming," encouraging countrymen and countrywomen abroad to visit the homeland once more in a cultural celebration of music and theatre.  But for now, Morton brings a bit of Scotland to New York, the town where he's contributed some excellent stage performances since coming to these shores to star in Taboo, and has also grown into a very fine cabaret artist.

The boyish and soft-spoken Morton uses the evening to educate the audience a bit on the history and significance of his selection of traditional Celtic tunes.  Burns is well represented with "Red Red Rose," "Auld Lang Syne, "Ae Fond Kiss" and even a bit of poetry reading.  The star's light, sweet tenor (with a nice lower range), melodic and tenderly expressive, warms the heart with traditional ballads like "Danny Boy" and "Loch Lomond."  A livelier tune, "Miari's Wedding," has him dancing about the small stage and a more contemporary hit, Charlie & Craig Reid's "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" is a joyously quirky highlight.

Directed by Lee Armitage, Morton is joined on stage by music director Bryan Reeder and Irish violinist and backup vocalist Maud Reardon, with whom he banters about some good-natured competitive ribbing between their two cultures.

Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy


 


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