BWW Reviews: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM at Center Stage

BWW Reviews: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM at Center Stage

What a way to end a season. Center Stage is presenting the final show of it's interesting and complex season with August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Due to the Center Stage gala Saturday night (which features Emily Skinner), there are NO performances on Saturday. Thus, you're only chance to see this terrific production is either Sunday matinee or evening.

I attended the wonderful  "Meet the Actors" symposium after a Friday night performance.

Almost the entire cast was greeted with nice applause in the second floor mezzanine as they entered.

Maurice McRae (Levee) was quick to point out he was ONLY acting. "Please don't beat me up", he quipped.  "Levee has been on guard since he was eight years old. He walks a certain way."

E.  Faye Butler (Ma Rainey) was asked how come she doesn't lose her voice.  Butler who's part called for much yelling as well as singing, commented, "You must breath at the right place, using your diaphragm.  She credits Lewis for "allowing us to be the artist you want to be. She gives you the freedom."

Bo Boddie (Sylvester) was asked about his stuttering on stage and why many in the audience laugh.  He said, "It's just like in real life. People don't know how to react."  He credited his voice training at the North Carolina School of the Arts where he just graduated from.   Jeb Kreager (Policeman) added he heard one in the audience say "Oh boy, this guy stutters."

Ernest Perry Jr. (Slow Drag) was quick to applaud working for Director Irene Lewis. "She allows us to be creative. This lady is one of the best directors of the world.  She constantly searches and the show keep evolving."  He added the entire cast is heading to the  Philadelphia Theatre Company where the show will run May 21 to June 20.

McRae admitted his role is very tough. After his gut wrenching performance each night, he has a hard time getting to sleep which occurs often around 3 a.m. He admitted his dance moves were his own. When asked if every performance is the same, he replied, "Every performance is always different. We always try to keep it alive and fresh. I improvise every night. This is not an easy thing to do for me. I want to do a comedy next." He was also not shy to say he actually eats bread and butter on stage. "I'm an actor, I'm always hungry."  He devours two sandwiches during the show.

Thomas Jefferson Byrd (Toledo) commented ,"I'm just a vehicle for the playwright. I hope to bring the truth to my role. August Wilson is speaking to us. It's very important what he says. You just can't say the words just to say them. I hope people are moved in a positive way."

This was Toccara Cash's first experience at Center Stage. "This is my first August Wilson production. It is a complete honor for me. I've learned more in the rehearsal process than in professional school."

Perry talked about Wilson who did not watch television or go to movies. "He was self-educated. Words can't express how proud I am to have this opportunity."

David Foneno (Cutler) stated he was proud to be a member of this incredible ensemble.

I also want to mention the wonderful program put together by Center Stage. Kudos to Faefra Chatard Carpenter, Production Dramaturg.  Special mention must be made to Sound Designer David Budries who is responsible for making it seem the actors are actually playing their instruments.

Don't forget to try the black bottoms on sale during intermission. How clever!

For tickets, call 410-332-0033 or visit

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