Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron

Highly enjoyable musical runs through June 9

By: May. 28, 2024
Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.




Existing user? Just click login.

Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron
Cristen Young as Viveca (center) and ensemble.
Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

Creative Cauldron stages a positively effervescent musical, THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN, a coming-of-age story that ably balances light humorous moments with pointed questions of growing up a Black woman in the latter part of the 20th century. The show features a charismatic and talented cast in a memorable, polished and energetic production.

Cristen Young as Viveca Stanton (or “Bubbly”) is the beating heart of the production – simultaneously vibrant and vulnerable, she is perfectly cast. We meet her on the playground and in dance class in Los Angeles in her seemingly-idyllic world in the early 1960s. But hatred and racism intrude as she grapples with the Birmingham church bombing and the deaths of four young Black girls her age. Yet she’s instructed to smile through the pain. We move through Bubbly’s life of navigating integrated middle school, the groovy hippie 1970s high school, and the sexism of the 1980s secretarial pool and Broadway chorus line. And still Bubbly forces a smile.

It is her father (Carl L. Williams) who tries to protect his daughter and encourages her to “Smile, Smile” in a poignant and affecting song. We feel the pain and conflict of raising a child of color in such tumultuous times. The bond between Viveca and her father is touching. Bianca Lipford as her mother is equally memorable in navigating Bubbly’s childhood and the confrontations across generations on their ideas of “appropriate” hair, clothing or boyfriends.

Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron
Cristen Young as Viveca (center left) and ensemble.
Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

This is a musical that propels the story through punchy and hummable songs and action. Maurice Johnson’s choreography fills the stage with vivid movement from the punctuated fun of “The Skate” in the high school gym to the begrudging office work of “Secretarial Pool” to the iconic angles and jazz hands for a Broadway audition for “Director Bob.” The assured movement and full voices of the ensemble fill the theatre.

The eleven-member cast is an extraordinarily talented ensemble. Cast members fill multiple roles – we meet Prince Charming, Chitty-Chatty doll, groovy boyfriend Cosmic, Granny and Harriet Tubman. Cast members are triple-threats: soaring vocals, polished dance and strong acting chops. All cast members have moments to shine and take center stage. Joining Young, Williams and Lipford are Trenton McKenzie Beavers, Alicia Zheng, Kayla Earl, Sally Imbriano, Edima Essien, Sylvern Groomes Jr., Oscar Salvador Jr., and Camryn Nailah Torres.

Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron
Cristen Young as Viveca (l) and
Trenton McKenzie Beavers as Gregory (r).
Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

The ensemble is in the wonderfully capable hands of Helen Hayes-nominated director Angelisa Gillyard who allows the audience to connect not only with Viveca, but even the most fleeting cameo in the sprawling story. Gillyard has also earned commendations for her choreography, and her effectiveness in musical storytelling is apparent here.

Amy Conley returns to Creative Cauldron as music director, leading a band comprised of keyboards, bass, flute and percussion. The band is just visible on stage, thanks to scenic design that incorporates the musicians behind several spaced panels.

Margie Jervis created the functional (almost classical) scenic design – panels, steps and a few streamlined set pieces like Bubbly’s bed are all in white. Lighting by Lynn Joslin and bright projections by Nicholas Goodman are used effectively to add vivid washes of color against the bright white set and help give a nod to the changing decades.

Jervis also designed the fun and memorable costumes – a palette primarily of bold primary colors and bubbly pink. The silhouettes change with the eras and the age of the characters.

Sound (by Nicholas Goodman) could be a bit tricky at times – much of the storytelling is through lyrics and some key words could get lost behind the volume of the band.

Although the production is more than two decades old and earned creator Kirsten Childs an Obie Award for its music and lyrics, Creative Cauldron’s staging is the first professional production of The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin in the Washington region. The show has tremendous resonance and heart in a fun and zippy package and deserves to be produced more often. Kudos to Creative Cauldron for bringing it to the area’s stage. With 11 cast members, a live band, and a story that spans more than thirty years, it is an ambitious musical to stage and the bold decision pays off.

Creative Cauldron’s The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin is a topnotch production thanks to a charismatic and highly talented cast, lush production elements, and compelling material. Make plans now to see it before it closes June 9.

Review: THE BUBBLY BLACK GIRL SHEDS HER CHAMELEON SKIN at Creative Cauldron
Cristen Young as Viveca (center) and ensemble.
Photo by William T. Gallagher Photography.

The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin is directed by Angelisa Gillyard with music direction by Amy Conley and choreography by Maurice Johnson. Scenic and costume design is by Margie Jervis; lighting design by Lynn Joslin; projections and sound design by Nicholas Goodman. Stage Manager is Nicholas Goodman.

Musicians are Amy Conley, Paige Rammelkamp, Ashlei Peoples, Elisa Rosman, Aaron Evans, Danny Santiago, Mila Weiss, Hailey Nowacek, Jo Huling, Emilie Taylor and Gilbert Rupp.

Running Time: 1:40 with no intermission

The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin with book, music and lyrics by Kirsten Childs, is produced by Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Retail 116, Falls Church, VA 22042. The production runs through June 9 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm. For tickets, performance information, attendance policies, and further information visit the company's website.

Photo Credit: William T. Gallagher Photography




Comments

To post a comment, you must register and login.







Videos