Review: Smoothly Revised RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD Returns to LA at Kirk Douglas Theatre

By: Jul. 18, 2016

Recorded in Hollywood/book by Matt Donnelly & Jamelle Dolphin/music & lyrics by Andy Cooper/directed by Denise Dowse/choreographed by Cassie Crump/musical director: Abdul Hamid Royal/Kirk Douglas Theatre/through August 7

The name of the game in show biz is never to settle for greatness, but rather to go that extra mile and make it better. Such is the case with Recorded in Hollywood. In its transferal from a smaller Hollywood space to the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the show provides a book by Matt Donnelly and Jamelle Dolphin that opens up even more than before to tell the true story of record producer John Dolphin. The story takes place from 1948 to 1958 in South Central, Los Angeles, when blacks were arrested for the slightest infractions of the law. Since I did not see the initial production, I am basing my opinions on this newer version. It is slick, a very slick show with a dynamic, triple threat ensemble headed by Stu James, directed superbly by Denise Dowse and choreographed to the max by Cassie Crump. The bad feature is that it only runs through August 7.

Recorded in Hollywood really moves musically through the period of rock and roll in its formative years, when black artists like Sam Cooke (Thomas Hobson) were starting to take off and white artists in the field were of a paltry number. Whites could not legally mix with blacks, so when whites started to infiltrate John Dolphin's record shop, police shut them down many times, claiming the blacks were having an indecent effect on the white teens. John Dolphin was no saint, to be sure. He smelled an opportunity a mile away, and never took no for an answer. He envisioned great things happening in his little shop like making his own hit records and putting them on the market. Known as a philanderer, he made lots of money, but spent it immediately often depriving his own employees of their pay. He married Ruth (Jenna Gillespie), had children with her, but cheated on her. She left him, but kept coming back because she believed that he would make a difference in the community and really fight to champion the black cause through music...which he finally did. When the play ends, Percy Ivy (Eric B. Anthony) shoots and murders him because he would not live up to a deal that would allow Percy to record. Dolphin had told Percy he had no talent, but Percy was loyal to the core and deserved far more consideration.

One praiseworthy element of Recorded is its portrayal of both sides of Dolphin, the good and the bad. Lovin' John Dolphin, as he was nicknamed, was not always magnanimous to the ones who were most faithful to him; he often acted on his own behalf, even bribing the police, which Ruth found intolerable. The other attraction to this ground-breaking musical is the inclusion of standards into the score, hits like "Nature Boy", "Earth Angel" and "Let the Good Times Roll". Jesse Belvin (Wilkie Ferguson III), the composer of "Earth Angel" is a featured player in the ensemble, cranking out his hit tunes in the record shop, but also suffering Dolphin's neglect despite his loyalty.

The ensemble of triple threats are dynamite. James is a real find as Dolphin. From the very top of the show, from his very first entrance, he makes waves just by the way he talks and moves through the audience and onto the stage. He has an attitude that will not quit, a star in the making. Anthony as Percy is another firecracker. Wild, untrained, Percy was unafraid to make himself known, and like Dolphin himself, never stopped believing in himself. Maybe that's why Dolphin could not give him a break, because he hated that similarity between them. Anthony gives a raw, untamed performance both in dialogue and in song. Gillespie as Ruth is loving, funny and sexy. Hobson and Ferguson both lend grounded support and sing beautifully. In the cast of 21 white actors Ryan Murray and Tyler Ruebensaal are real standouts as officers of the law and as members of the first white singing group with the style of The Beach Boys, that Dolphin contracted in 1958. Tiny Caitlin Gallogly is another member of the ensemble who makes the most of an ensemble role, dancing and reacting to the max.

Director Dowse and choreographer Cassie Crump deserve the highest praise for keeping the show rolling along at a fever pitch. Bruce Goodrich has designed a terrific set and has the record shop stage right and the orchestra elevated on a platform stage left. Mylette Nora does a superior job with period costuming. Abdul Hamid Royal and his 7-piece band are a knockout.

Go see Recorded in Hollywood! It tells a true story that needs to be heard far and wide. You'll be simultaneously educated and entertained. Through August 7 only!

(photo credit: Ed Krieger)



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From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                                    &... Don Grigware">(read more about this author)


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