BWW Review: HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME at Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company
HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME made its Broadway debut and farewell in the summer of 2014, lasting only 38 performances and 17 previews. With this in mind, you might wonder why Tony Award-winning Kenny Leon would direct the show on Broadway to direct it again just three years later at his own theatre company, True Colors. The only reason that I can think of is that the show works better in smaller venues.
Performed at the Southwest Arts Center, the regional premiere has a very intimate feeling in comparison to the original show. With Todd Kreidler creating the script and compiling music completely written by the late rapper Tupac Shakur, HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME tells the story of an African-American community trying to escape the harsh reality of gun violence in their neighborhood.
Through choreography, scenic design, lighting and exceptional casting choices, Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company presents the story with the utmost integrity. Jared Grimes has created choreography that surpasses expectations and captures the essence of the story, community and character. I could not have been more pleased with this part of the show.
As far as casting goes, another five stars. Playing the lead character of John, Rob Demery is exceptional in the role, breathing life into his character with the biggest surge of energy coming towards the end of the show. Personally, Garrett Turner is a favorite of mine after seeing his performance as Benny in "In the Heights" at Theatrical Outfit (in collaboration with Aurora Theatre). As Vertus, Turner shows multiple dimensions and raises our spirits with positivity.
Though I have mixed feelings about the character of Corinne, I only feel that way due to the superb acting of D. Woods. In her performance, there is strength and a dash of Beyonce, but there is also this yearning to be loved and wanted. There is a want to say something and be mad at someone while not being able to speak those words. Woods portrays this perfectly, in a way that is relatable to most.
Wonza Johnson, having one of the few characters that actually sings (as most of the lyrics are rapped), provides a nice break to explore the lyrics of Shakur in a different way. He showcases a theatricality within his voice, adding a nice layer in this non-traditional musical.
Overall, the show radiates a positive message that you can overcome any obstacle. It proves that even though the circumstances might be about a particular race or community, humans all have the same emotional experiences. We all feel the need to protect our mothers, and fall in love, and dream for bigger and better things. These thoughts belong to no culture, religion or race, but rather humanity.
Thank you to Kenny Leon and True Colors Theatre Company for sharing that message. Even though this show might not apply to your race or culture, you should still experience the artistic thrill that is HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME.