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Feature: 'Now's the Time' to see HALLELUJAH, BABY! at Haddonfield Plays & Players

HALLELUJAH BABY!

Feature: 'Now's the Time' to see HALLELUJAH, BABY! at Haddonfield Plays & Players

"Gotta fly and if I fall that's the way it's gotta be,

There's not other way for me,

Being good just won't be good enough

I'll be the best or nothing at all."

  • "Being Good" from Hallelujah, Baby!

Hallelujah, Baby! is a musical following Georgina, a talented, beautiful, and ambitious African American woman, determined to have a career. Overcoming many obstacles, she rises to stardom. She makes her way through the Great Depression, World War II, and the beginning of the civil rights movement. Her mother advises her to "keep her place" as a maid on a South Carolina estate, but Georgina negotiates the blocks to stardom from her negative and opportunistic mother. She encounters the racism that pervades society and show business.

Hallelujah, Baby! is a musical with music by Jule Styne (Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Funny Girl), lyrics by Adolph Green and Betty Comden (Billion Dollar Baby, Bells Are Ringing, and Singin' in the Rain), and a book by Arthur Laurents (West Side Story, Gypsy, and Anyone Can Whistle). The show is "a chronicle of the African American struggle for equality during the (first half of the) 20th century." This Tony award winning musical originally starred the incredible Leslie Uggams in the role of Georgina, which she also won a Tony for.

Haddonfield Plays & Players has been producing quality community theatre since 1934 and is South Jersey's only BYOB theater. HP&P is featuring this underproduced 1967 classical Broadway musical as a part of its 2022 mainstage season.

"I was looking for a show that would help diversify our season that wasn't the typical choice." Haddonfield Plays & Players Producing Artistic Director Chris Miller stated. "I wanted a show that would have great roles for BIPOC performers as well as tell an important story." Miller explains how the theatre landscape has changed because of recent discussions about race: "In the wake of recognition of disparity brought to the forefront by the community post-George Floyd, it was important to show the local community that we listened." Miller said. "We want to produce shows that represent everyone."

Hallelujah, Baby! director Darryl S Thompson Jr. explains that he brought the show to Haddonfield by "Vaguebooking" (the practice of making a post on social media that is intentionally vague but very personal). Miller happened upon the post and the rest is history.

Thompson is a South Jersey native who has more than 28 years of theatre experience. He graduated from Livingston College with a degree in Music Education and has been performing, directing, and conducting since. "My very first show was with the Princeton Opera Company... the only black guy in Anatevka." Thompson disclosed. His passion for Hallelujah, Baby! is evident. "My focus as an artist has been to find lesser-known works because there are a lot of lesser known gems. Hallelujah, Baby! is one of them." Thompson said. "Especially on a community theatre level, we often find ourselves doing the same seven and a half shows all the time... We have a whole catalog of work out there, of shows that just need to be done."

"I'm not sure how many other versions of this show there are." Thompson admits. "There aren't very many, if any, productions at all at this time. And the research I tried to do for this show... it was almost impossible to find anything."

"That intrigued me," Miller said, "to bring our audience something they wouldn't get a chance to see elsewhere."

Both Miller and Thompson hope that through this show, they can encourage audiences to not only experience excellent live theatre, but to also initiate important conversations.

"It's an old Broadway musical that has all the elements of a huge production with a story that is important to tell." Miller explains. He disclosed that his goal with this production is that audiences are "entertained for 2 hours while being reminded the struggles many black performers faced trying to make their dreams come true in the first half of the 20th century."

Even in the rehearsal process, Thompson said the show and text was sparking conversations about race. The process was a different experience for the performers. The director and the cast examined the show, it's problems as well as achievements and had discussions about "the black experience" as well as who has the right to comment on these experiences.

"Hallelujah, Baby! is a light, fun and whole-hearted musical that soft pebbles on a lot of major issues and doesn't totally confront racial things," Thompson admits. "It is performative at times, but it is still a perspective of time, through six decades, of how we fought to overcome."

Thompson explains that even though the play is problematic (partially due to the fact it is a play about the black experience written by two white Jewish men), it is still important to produce and for audiences to see. "All the characters resonate in today's world," Thompson states. Georgina is a visionary that desires to rise above her station and does not want to be constrained by the norms of society which is absolutely something that is still relevant now. "Art is about confronting reality. Art can be problematic but also informative." Thompson said. "It's important because art has always been used to make political statements."

"I would love everyone to see this show," Thompson continued. "To help support the message that theatre that features people of color are just as good and worthy to be seen and should be done more often."

If you desire to see something entertaining but different, to support restoring equitable value to humanity through art, and/or to go back in time and revisit the golden age of musical theatre, check out Hallelujah, Baby! "We will not disappoint." Thompson promises.

"Want to be in that happy place? Where the faces look like one big face?"

Now's the time! Get out of your room, grab your favorite beverage, and head over to Haddonfield Plays & Players' production of Hallelujah, Baby! playing May 20th through June 4th in Haddonfield, NJ.

For more information about the show and to purchase tickets, please visit www.haddonfieldplayers.com

Photo Credit: Haddonfield Plays and Players Facebook



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