Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
See Bill's recent review of Shrek The Musical
A parade of hits from the late 1960s and into the '70s represents a cornerstone that was pretty much owned by African-American artists. Even a big hit by Carole King, "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman," belongs much more to the great Aretha Franklin than it does to its co-composer (with Gerry Goffin).
The problem is that 90 minutes from this wide repertory comes out sounding a bit repetitive. This is due partly to the musical arrangements, which lack variety and honest ownership of style, and partly to a serious problem with the sound system. Inside, the mixing is excellent, with the ability to isolate different voices, so that someone singing lead can be electronically brought forward. This is completely lacking in the outdoor space, where this show is being staged, and so we have one number after another after another with one of the four women singing lead with the others doing backup.
All the usual values that make a WBTT presentation special are in place: gorgeous costumes which are period appropriate by Darci Collins; excellent lighting (remembering that this is is not presented on a stage but at the entrance to the theater) by Michael Pasquini; direction by Nate Jacobs to keep things lively; and choreography by Donald Frison.
Brennan Stylez leads an excellent band from the keys, though when regular music director James Jay Dodge II is in place there is more musical variety in the arrangements. He is assisted by Brad Foutch on guitar, Matthew McKinnon (part of the McKinnon family that can be found all over WBTT in numerous capacities) on bass, Etienne "EJ" Porter and Michael Andrews on drums, and Lynette Williams on auxiliary keys.
Even off best form, a WBTT show is always an exciting night of entertainment. It may be that everything that is a touch problematic is due to the outdoor conditions and that, because of the circumstances, issues cannot so easily be corrected.
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is planning a "real" season next year, socially distanced inside their new theater at first but hopefully moving to full capacity as the year progresses. Already announced: Eubie, the Broadway revue of the music of the composer of "I'm Just Wild About Harry" and much more, starting in October; a new Christmas presentation, Joyful, Joyful, in December; an original musical from Mr. Jacobs and his brother, Ruby, January through February 2022; a revival of one of WBTT's best revues, Broadway in Black, beginning in March; and two original plays, one about Nell Carter, the other focusing on Mohammad Ali, for May.
Sisters in the Name of Soul, through June 6, 2021, at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 Nate Jacobs Way, Sarasota FL. For more information, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
Cast in alphabetical Order: