BWW Review: OO-BLA-DEE at Two River Theater is an Insightful Musical Story-A Summer Must-See
"I tell my tales out of time."
By Luna in Oo-Bla-Dee
The Two River Theater (TRT) now has a marvelous musical journey on stage as a grand finale to their 2018/2019 Season. Oo-Bla-Dee, written by Regina Taylor, features original lyrics by Taylor and original music by composer/orchestrator, Diedre L. Murray. The choreography is by Kenneth L. Roberson and the musical direction is by George Caldwell, with vocal arrangements by Carol Maillard. Ruben Santiago-Hudson expertly directs the production. This show is a treasure. Beautifully crafted and presented, it blends music, poetry and storytelling.
Oo-Bla-Dee is set in 1946, just after WWII. A young saxophone player, who has assumed a new name, Gin Del Sol joins an all-black, female jazz quartet. Gin wishes to leave behind her provincial lifestyle and the relationship to her boyfriend as she embarks on a musical career. The band, "Evelyn Waters and the Diviners" includes pianist and vocalist Evelyn Waters; a bass player, Ruby; and a drummer, Lulu. For the chance at a recording contract, the four women travel from St. Louis to Chicago with their Manager, Shorty. Times are tough, and tensions run high as the group hopes to succeed musically while living with the scourge of racial prejudice. A character, Luna who adds a sense of mysticism to the tale using songs and dialogue, guides the story.
The cast couldn't be better. They capture the humor and the drama of the story as it unfolds. The company includes Marva Hicks as Evelyn Waters; Amber Iman as Luna C; Stanley Wayne Mathis as Shorty; Monica J. Palmer as Ruby; Cedric Sanders as Arthur/Soldier; Stacey Sargeant as Lulu; Allison Semmes as Gin Del Sol; and Chesney Snow as the Vocal Foley.
Memorable scenes abound in the production that include Luna C's introduction; Gin's first contentious meeting with Lulu; Ruby recounting how she left her family to pursue music; Shorty presenting a letter to Evelyn from her lover in Paris; Evelyn, Gin, Ruby and Lulu traveling by car to Chicago with Shorty; Vocal Foley's remarkable beatboxing moments; and the romantic reunion between Gin and the soldier who has been searching for her.
You'll be very impressed by the music that accompanies Oo-Bla-Dee and the musicians that make it happen. They include conductor and piano by George Caldwell; saxophone by Corinthia Cromwell; percussion by Eli Fountain; and bass by Mimi Jones.
The creative team has done a great job of bringing the Oo-Bla-Dee to life on the Red Bank stage. They include scenic design by Michael Carnahan; costume design by Karen Perry; lighting design by Jane Cox; sound design by Jane Shaw; and projection design by Alex Basco Koch. The copyist is Kevin Massey and the wig designer is J. Jared Janas. The casting is by Binder Casting/Chad Eric Murnane, CSA. The assistant stage manager is Larry Copeland and the production stage manager is Mark Dobrow.
Oo-Bla-Dee is an insightful show, a jazz lover's experience, and one that you should put on your summer entertainment schedule. Because the story set in the post-war era when black women became active on the music scene and the jazz world was in a period of transition, it also has great artistic and historical implications. See it while it is on the Two River Theater stage.
Oo-Bla-Dee will be performed through Sunday, July 30 at Two River Theater located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ. For tickets and to learn about special programs and offers, visit their web site at https://tworivertheater.org/ or call 732.345.1400.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson