Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

The Royale
Lantern Theater Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Phillip Brown as Jay and Morgan Charéce Hall
Photo by Mark Garvin
Lantern Theater Company's Philadelphia premiere of Marco Ramirez's award-winning The Royale is an absolute knock-out. Thrilling, tragic, and utterly magnificent, it is a uniquely American story that explores what it means to be the champion against all odds. Phillip Brown is electrifying as boxer Jay "The Sport" Jackson, and director Zuhairah McGill infuses the production with an irresistible musical energy. The Royale is inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion.

Unsatisfied with being Negro Heavyweight Champion, Jay Jackson (Brown) wants nothing less than the chance to fight Bixby, the reigning white heavyweight champion, and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Bixby agrees, but only if he takes 90% of the purse, win or lose. Much of the story focuses on Jackson's training and preparation leading up to the big match with Bixby, but his most dangerous opponents are the racism, fear and doubt conspiring to keep him from getting the recognition he deserves.

Adorably insecure and endearingly enthusiastic Kahlil A. Wyatt plays Fish, an up-and-coming boxer who joins Johnson's team as a sparring partner. Wyatt's innocence and uncertainty are a perfect foil for Brown's commanding presence. Brian Anthony Wilson brings a different kind of gravitas to the role of Jay's longtime trainer Wynton. Wynton and Brown have a captivating natural chemistry. Philadelphia favorite Gregory Isaac plays Johnson's fight promoter with a restrained frustration that feels just right. Johnson's sister Nina does not really appear until late in the play, but Morgan Charéce Hall radiates an inner strength that is absolutely phenomenal.

The talented ensemble share a powerful connection that is expressed and enhanced by Zuhairah McGill's rhythm-infused direction and choreography. There is something gloriously brutal about the way McGill blurs the line between dancing and boxing.

The Royale hits hard and lands just right. Get to Lantern Theater Company by December 11th to experience the glory and heartbreak for yourself.

Lantern Theater Company's The Royale runs through December 11, 2022, at St. Stephen's Theater, 923 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia PA. Tickets are $25 – $42. Discounts are available for students, seniors 65 and up, U.S. military personnel, and groups of 10 or more. For tickets and information, please visit or call 215-829-0395.

Written by:
Marco Ramirez

Directed and Choreographed by:
Zuhairah McGill

Phillip Brown as Jay
Morgan Charéce Hall as Nina
Gregory Isaac as Max
Brian Anthony Wilson as Wynton
Kahlil A. Wyatt as Fish

Creative Team:
Will Lowry, Scenic & Lighting Designer
Ali Turns, Costume Designer
Jairous L. Parker, Sound Designer
Simon "One Punch" Carr, Boxing/Movement Consultant
Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, Production Dramaturgy Consultant
Rebecca Smith, Stage Manager
Zaria Leonard-White, Assistant Director