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Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS

The evolution continues....

Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS

THE EVOLUTION OF "BE A LION"
Vickie L. Evans

"Evolution...a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better stage." Evolution is one of my favorite words in the English language. Why? Because it denotes Progression! Advancement! A Better Version! All descriptive words indicative of the two-day performance of the original Broadway-style musical Be A Lion, written, directed, and produced by Rory D. Sheriff of BNS Productions, performed at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center's Booth Playhouse.

I was sitting next to a patron who was there with her daughter and mother. As I looked around the audience the trend was repeated...patrons with their children, cousins, aunts, etc. That's the joy of Be A Lion, it is family friendly. It's a "feel good" story that the smallest child can comprehend and enjoy; yet, it is a storyline every adult can relate to...the importance of being there for a friend. Friendship is like a diamond that shines in the darkest skies, especially when it's embraced and not rejected.

Be A Lion is about friendship. I love the creativity that prompted the inquisition in the playwright's head, that produced a modern-day masterpiece that is as memorable as the classic in which it is derived. Both pieces take you on a "yellow brick road" journey that is fun, fabulous, riveting, entertaining, and down right good.

Be A Lion is a modern-day adaptation, so to speak, of the timeless children's classic, The Wizard Of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and the Tony-Award Winning Musical, The Wiz, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls (and others) and book by William F. Brown. The Broadway version starred legendary songstress Stephanie Mills. There is also a movie/television version of The Wiz with a star-studded cast that included Diana Ross, as Dorothy and the legendary late King Of Pop, Michael Jackson, as Scarecrow.

Rory D. Sheriff, who recently was named "Theatre Person Of Year" by Metrolina Theatre Association, explored the idea of what could have happened to the Emerald City after the wizard was exposed and Dorothy kicked her heels and returned home to Kansas. Formulating the possibility of "Oz" being left in a state of lawlessness, without a prominent leader to restore order, Rory developed a plot to erect a leader from one of the original foursome which included Dorothy , The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Cowardly Lion. Who could it be? Who was the chosen one that would restore order to Oz? How about the Lion? Since by natural order, he reigns as the "king of the jungle", why not "king of Oz"?

One of the key components of the storyline of Be A Lion stems from the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, who was killed by Dorothy and friends. One of my favorite scenes from the original Wizard of Oz, is when Dorothy poured water on the Wicked Witch Of The West and she screamed, "I'm melting!". In Be A Lion, the antagonist (the Wicked Witch Of The West) is referred to as Evilene. It turns out that before she died (according to the brilliant mind of Rory), Evilene had a daughter named Damneesha through procreation with one of the flying monkeys. Damneesha found a newspaper that disclosed the details of her mother's (Evilene) death at the hands of the Dorothy (Nasha Shandri), Tin Man (Graham Williams), Scarecrow (Gereme McConneaughey), and The Lion (Tim Bradley), while her father, the flying monkey, stood by and took pleasure in the results. Damneesha vowed to avenge her mother's death beginning with her own father. And so, the plot begins.

Let's talk about the evolution. In 2014, I had the opportunity to see Be A Lion's debut at the Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square (which is now obsolete). I remember its humble beginnings when the scene backdrop of the yellow brick road was projected on 19-inch television. It is so wonderful to see the evolution of the beautiful set here at the Booth Playhouse transformed into an array of beautiful backdrops of star-lit skies and brilliant clouds enveloped by full bloom, colorful trees. The perfect setting. Evolution, indeed!

BNS Productions also stepped it up a notch with its choreography. Shout-out to the talented Toi Aquilla R. J. and Chris Thompson. I also noticed an evolution in the bright and beautiful costumes. Kudos to Dee Abdullah and Aneesah Taylor. All the trimmings for a festive and entertaining musical.

Let's talk about this marvelous cast. Returning to the stage was the lead actor, The Lion, "Fleetwood Coup DeVille" (Tim Bradley) and his beautiful Rastafarian love interest, lioness Ladawn (K. Alana Jones). These two had wonderful chemistry together on stage. Lady Ladawn kept the crowd amused with her Jamaican accented outbursts and tribute to "Jah". The cleverness of the playwright to create a lioness that didn't eat meat when a lioness is carnivorous by nature is a great character asset. Also returning to the stage is the Lion's faithful friend, a mouse named Miles (Danius Jones). A rodent and a lion as best buddies...despite their obvious dissimilarities.

In this performance, there is a new antagonist in town, (Germona Sharp) stepped into the role of Damneesha, the Wicked Witch of the West's, (Evilene's) evil daughter. She was as equally wicked as her predecessor (Melody Williams). Another newcomer, who did an excellent job portraying The Scarecrow is (Gereme McConneaughey). Those dance moves were smooth and definitely worthy to compare with the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. I look forward to seeing him cast in other productions...I predict this won't be his last. My favorite addition to the cast is actress (Shar Marlin) in the role of Teenie, the Tin Man's wife. Shar brought the humor and her "bad girl" persona to the role as only Shar can. She is always a scene-stealer, who captivates and leaves her enormous talent on the stage.

In the past, I have written several reviews for BNS Productions and each time I fail to mention one of its biggest "behind the scenes" treasures...its production manager, Chiletta Marie. The residue of her presence is sprinkled throughout the production...whether it is her contribution as a songwriter, backstage crew, or she is found in the foyer marketing and promoting BNS memorabilia. She is always diligently working to ensure that every component is operating like a well-oiled machine. As that saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.

I look forward to seeing the NEXT STEP in the evolution of Be A Lion. I know there are aspirations of a Broadway running in the future and I anticipate all the bells and whistles that will be added to accomplish that feat. Just a couple of more tweaks here and there and before you know it, we will see Be A Lion on a Broadway marquee. I hope to be in the audience cheering them on. Great job, BNS Productions and producer/director/playwright Rory D. Sheriff.

If you have not experienced a BNS Productions, you are missing a treat. Their next production will be another original work written by Rory D. Sheriff, entitled "Speak Easy", February 17-19, 2023. For more information, please visit website: http://www.bnsproductions.org.

Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
The Lion (Tim Bradley)
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Ladawn (K. Alana Jones)
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Teenie (Shar Marlin) And
Tin Man (Graham Williams)
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
The Scarecrow
(Gereme McConneaughey
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Damneesha (Germona Sharp)
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Flying Monkey/Dad
(Frank Facheaux)
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Rory D. Sheriff
Producer, BNS Productions
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
The Lion's Coronation
Feature: The Broadway-Style Musical, BE A LION RETURNS
Dorothy (Nasha Shandri)


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From This Author - Vickie Evans

Vickie is the president of the independent theater company, Soaring High Productions and is the CEO of the nonprofit theater advocacy organization, Performing Arts and Literary Society (PALS). ... (read more about this author)


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