BWW Review: And In This Corner: Cassius Clay

And In This Corner: Cassius Clay

BWW Review:  And In This Corner:  Cassius Clay
Me standing with the Greatest Boxer of All Times

Written By: Vickie L. Evans

This past weekend, I had the chance to see And In This Corner: Cassius Clay, written by Idris Goodwin, directed by Aaron Cabell, and produced by Children's Theatre of Charlotte. What an awesome portrayal of the youthful and personal side of the man who made an indubitable mark of this nation and respectfully earned him the title "The Greatest". We should note that in 1964, Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Deon Releford-Lee (Cassius) did a phenomenal job bringing this story-line to life.

This biographical portrayal is VERY personal to me. As a kid, I had a MAJOR crush on "The People's Champ". I would stay awake at night (unbeknown to my parents) to listened through the walls as they watched his boxing matches on our black and white television with the rabbit antennas (dating myself). Who could forget The Rumble in the Jungle or The Thriller in Manilla? I love this depiction of the life of Muhammad Ali because it incorporated his family: his dad, Cass; his mom, Odessa; and his brother, Rocky. It also addressed bullying and how it led Cassius to the boxing ring. His childhood nemesis, Corky (Ron Lee McGill), stole his bright red bicycle. A police officer named Joe (Kevin Shimko), who also worked at a local gym, prevented him from retaliating and convinced him to take his cause to the boxing ring. In the ring, Cassius was king and outsmarted and out-boxed the bigger bully, Corky. In addition to the bullying injustice, And In This Corner: Cassius Clay also illustrated the racial disparity that the young Cassius experienced. Even after winning the Olympics, Cassius was not welcomed in the local restaurant in his hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, causing him to throw his Olympic medal in the Ohio River.

This production gave me such insight in and additional confirmation of what I knew concerning the reasons Muhammad Ali had such character and morals through the disparities he experienced as a child. His childhood friend, Eddie, (Rahsheem Shabazz) persistently stirred up his social consciousness that made me understand why he refused to submit to the Vietnam draft. His rejection by Sugar Ray Robinson gave me insight to why he never turned a fan away and signed every autograph.

What I was impressed about the most was the amount of young people who were in attendance at this event. Yes, I know it was produced by Children's Theatre; however, these children were special. Not only did they watch attentively, they asked questions in the "talk back" session held after the play. They appeared genuinely interested in learning more about the life of Muhammad Ali and what it took for Deon to prepare for the role. The boxing tips shared by Jonathan Hoskins and Deon, after the production was very insightful,

Ordinarily, when writing reviews, I try to steer away from sharing too much of my personal feelings, however this time I'm going to make an exception. Since February is Black History Month, I was extremely proud to see this exceptional stage play about the life of my favorite sports hero of all times! To me, Muhammad Ali (as he liked to be called) is really is the greatest of all times...for so many reasons. A huge thumbs up to the production staff and cast of And In This Corner: Cassius Clay. I could only imagine how proud Muhammad Ali would be if he was here to see this great production. Rest In Peace, Sir.

BWW Review:  And In This Corner:  Cassius Clay
Jonathan Hoskins (Zbigniew Pietrzkowski)
and Deon Releford-Lee (Cassius Clay)
sparing.

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BWW Review:  And In This Corner:  Cassius Clay
Deon Releford-Lee (Cassius)

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