BWW Review: The World Premiere of LITTLE GIRL BLUE-THE NINA SIMONE MUSICAL Enthralls at GSP
"Music is my religion."
By Nina Simone in Little Girl Blue
Tickets won't last long for this one. George Street Playhouse (GSP) is now presenting the world premiere of Little Girl Blue-The Nina Simone Musical through February 24. Superbly written and performed by Laiona Michelle, the production enjoys inspired direction by Devanand Janki. This show is a sure fire hit!
GSP audiences will recognize Laiona Michelle from her critically acclaimed performance in American Hero that was produced by the Playhouse in the 2017/2018 Season. In Little Girl Blue-The Nina Simone Musical, Michelle's musical talents abound.
Nina Simone was a child prodigy with a love of classical piano who later became famous for her eclectic musical talent as she performed jazz, blues and soul. Simone was a strong, spirited woman and a staunch advocate for civil rights. But she also faced intense personal struggles that included a strict mother, an abusive husband, financial problems, and her own demons.
The show opens at a performance by Nina Simone and her trio of musicians in 1968 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement just after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Michelle Laiona brings Nina Simone to life in words and music as she portrays significant events in Simone's life and exquisitely performs songs that include "Love Me or Leave Me" by Walter Donaldson & Gus Kahn, "My Father Always Promised" with words and music by Judy Collins, and Nina Simone's own compelling songs, "Four Women," "Be My Husband," and "Mississippi Goddam."
The second act brings audiences to a very different time in 1976, when Simone was living and performing in Europe. The act's opening number is an affecting rendition of "Little Girl Blue" with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Other songs in the second act include "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone, "Ooh Child" by Stan Vincent, and "My Way" by Claude Francois & Jacques Revaux; English lyric by Paul Anka. The diverse selection of music throughout the show works perfectly to illuminate the life and times of Nina Simone.
The trio, that accompanies all of the numbers, has outstanding musicianship and they add character to the show. They include Mark Fifer on Keyboards/Conductor; Saadi Zain on Bass; and Kenneth Salters on Drums/Percussion.
The Creative Team has done a stunning job with the set and design concepts for the show with scenic design by Shoko Kambara; costume design by Ari Fulton; lighting design by Xavier Pierce; sound design by Karin Graybash; hair and wig design by Leah Loukas. The Production Manager is Christopher J. Bailey; the Production Stage Manager is Ernie Fimbres; Casting is by McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
In his opening night address, David Saint, GSP's Artistic Director stated, "It gives me great pleasure and pride to give you Little Girl Blue." We share his enthusiasm. This insightful portrait of Nina Simone, an extremely gifted and complex individual, will mesmerize you. The musical is wonderfully crafted and beautifully performed. Music lovers and many more should embrace the opportunity to see it while it is being performed at George Street Playhouse.
George Street Playhouse is located at 103 College Farm Road in New Brunswick on the Cook Campus of Rutgers University. Located right off Route 1 (just two miles from Livingston Avenue). The venue features 190 seats, expansive lobby spaces including an outdoor patio, free parking and barrier free access to all public areas. For tickets to Little Girl Blue-The Nina Simone Musical, upcoming shows and for more information, visit https://georgestreetplayhouse.org/ or call the Box Office at 732.246.7717.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson