The M Ensemble has moved its production of Jackie “Moms” Mabley Live into the 300 seat Shores Performing Arts Theater for two weeks after it was performed at their main studio in North Miami this summer. The M hopes to present “Moms” to a wider audience so they can get to know a comedienne who inspired other comics with edgier material, such as Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, and Martin Lawrence.
“Moms” Mabley (née Loretta Mary Arkins) was born in 1897 in North Carolina. She developed the persona of “Moms” in nightclubs until she was discovered by a mainstream audience in 1923. “Moms” performed alongside other veterans of the stage including, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Harry Belafonte and was a headliner at the Apollo in New York. She kept working until her death in 1975.
While still a professor at Howard University, T.G. Cooper (M Ensemble’s founder) culled some of Mabley’s material that still was funny but not offensive in today’s times. Along with musical arrangements by Ben Collier, this could be a good one-woman show. Proving that is FIU graduate Latrice Bruno. As “Moms,” Bruno has a good stage presence, giving the audience the full effect of Mabley’s material. Bruno also flirts with her sidekick, Curtis Allen and has musician Collier to join in on the act.
The only flaw that the M made was moving the show into a bigger space like the Shores. Whoever worked on the sound design of the show did a mediocre service, as the microphones are very spotty. The Shores is a nice auditorium, but its acoustics are rough. However, being the trooper that she is, Bruno swaggers on and off stage, giving the audience a show to remember. If the M Ensemble wants to continue this vehicle, it should be suggested that they find a more intimate space.
Jackie “Moms” Mabley Live will play until September 19th at the Shores Theater, 9806 NE 2 Avenue in Miami. For more information, please call (305) 751-0562.
M ENSEMBLE COMPANY - Jackie “Moms” Mabley Live
Cast: Latrice Bruno, Yvonne Christiana (alternate)
Directed by Jerry Maple, Jr.
-- Kevin Johnson