Review: THE BLACK VERSION - HOLIDAY SPECIAL Uproariously Sends Up Scrooged

By: Dec. 11, 2015
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THE BLACK VERSION - HOLIDAY SPECIAL/created by Jordan Black/directed by Karen Maruyama/Largo @ The Coronet/new shows once a month

The amazingly talented performers of THE BLACK VERSION - HOLIDAY SPECIAL rocked the audience at Largo @ The Coronet with their lightning quick improv wit, some incredible vocals and ridiculously sharp rapping. Karen Maruyama directed her six-member cast in a racehorse pacing with just enough time for hearty laughs between hilarious lines after hilarious reactions after hilarious comebacks.

A rousing opening number riffing on a medley of popular songs (Mariah Carey's "Hero," Hair's "Age of Aquarius," "Seasons of Love" from Rent) powered by the gorgeous vocals of Daniele Gaither and Nyima Funk established the outrageous free-for-all, go-for-broke frivolities to follow.

As wont, the African-American troupe comically offers up their black take on a holiday movie. In this 2015's edition, Scrooged (renamed Dickhead) was chosen by audience vote. Maruyama periodically interjected the actions she wanted her players to follow. And follow they do subtly, or more often blatantly amping up their emotions as if Maruyama controlled them with a simple knob twist, slyly turning up their intensities first by a notch, then by a big twirling flourish.

Set in TV station WTF (Well, that's fine!), creator Jordan Black's primary character, the titular station manager Dickhead, as well as his many riotous others, consistently exhibited his comic versatility in coming up with his boisterous punchlines. Black unfailing demonstrated his generosity in setting up his fellow castmates' raucous laugh pay-offs. Actually, all worked seamlessly off and with each other challenging or offering suggestions to show off each other's specialties.

Phil LaMarr, with his melodious basso voice, amongst his many characters, expertly essayed a very dead former station manager with a most distinctive gait. Too funny!

Bresha Webb nailed her Jasmine Guy impression and dinner theatre Cats waitress. Loved that her struggling actress character claimed she "participates in television" rather than offering specific credits. LOL!!!

Gaither frequently made her mark especially with her spot-on impressions of Queen Latifah and Maya Angelou. You go, Girl!

First act closer had the sidesplitting re-wording of George Benson's "On Broadway" to "On Christmas," backed by the great Black Version Band (with Dominique Taplin on keyboard, Maurice Ellis on bass, Kyle Bolden on guitar, Janice Markham on violin and musical director Stacey Sydnor on drums). The Band accenting all important acting beats got their due spotlight in their intramission Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," with the audience enthusiastically singing along.

Gary Anthony Williams, hysterical as an Uber driver/Ghost of the Present and Ghost of the Future, really got his huge moment to shine in the cast's "serious" finale. Williams ferociously rapped on the Charlie Brown snowcone machine he wanted for Christmas, with Funk accompanying with her heavenly gospel vocals. Would love to see a rap-off between Williams and Lin-Manuel Miranda. That would be epic!

Can't wait to see what flick they skewer next in January!


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