BWW Review: RAP UNZEL - Charms With Rocking Modern Tale
We all know the fairy tale Rapunzel from childhood, but Jeremy Rashad Brown and Deanna Belardinelli give RAP UNZEL an update, hip hop style at Scottish Rite Theatre in cooperation with Brown Boy Productions and the effect is enchanting.
I have always found children's theatre to be mostly hit and miss. When a show hits, it's pure magic, but when it misses, it's usually because the material underestimates it's audience. Children are natural critics and they can spot a fake a mile away. There is a great weight on anyone producing theatre for young audiences to be real and graceful storytellers. RAP UNZEL's directors, Delanté G. Keys and Megan Moore Ortiz hit all the right notes to create an engaging and delightful experience for children and parents alike.
Reginald 'Rap' Unzel III (Delanté G. Keys) is a new kid on the block who loves to merge rhyme and rhythm just for the sheer joy of it. His overprotective mother, Maji (Michelle Alexander/Ashley Hazzard), keeps him close to home for fear of losing him. But the irrepressible young hero of our story cannot be denied, he makes a new friend Kenzee (Hayley Armstrong), who teaches him some cool moves. Together they confront the neighborhood bullies Alex, Taylor and Jamie (Olivia Jimenez, Lilli López and Nicholas Kier). The ending is a celebration of our differences and our commonality. The production is sweet, silly and ultimately entertaining for every member of the audience.
I had the opportunity to attend the production with a member of the target audience, my six-year-old grandson. He's a serious wiggle worm and getting his attention for even a short amount of time usually requires an XBox or a PlayStation, but miraculously he never moved for the duration of RAP UNZEL. His attention was firmly fixed on the stage as was the attention of a theatre full of children. I've attended a multitude of plays for children and I can remember few that riveted the attention of children as much as this production did. Every cast member was outstanding starting with the neighborhood bullies, Olivia Jimenez, Lilli López and Nicholas Kier. Their bad guys were multidimensional and not just cardboard baddies. As Kenzee, Hayley Armstrong captures our hearts as Rap's only friend. But it's Delanté Keys in the title role who commands the stage at every moment. His talent is as high as his towering hairdo and he never lets his energy fade even for a second. He is truly a pied piper with the audience, leading them through the story with an infectious glee. The original music by SaulPaul is brilliant and gave the performance its heart and rocking soul. I am looking forward with great anticipation to what is next for Brown Boy Productions and Scottish Rite Theatre.
by Jeremy Rashad Brown and Deanna Belardinelli
Directed by Delanté Keys and Megan M. Ortiz
Scottish Rite Theatre
February 9 - March 3, 2019