Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul
West Coast Black Theatre Troupe

Sheldon Roden
Summer at West Coast Black Theatre Troupe brings a revival of their award-winning Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul. When first produced three years ago it was chosen Best Musical Production by a mid-sized theater in a reader's choice vote, by local theater critic Jay Handleman. Since that time, WBTT has raised their production values and the actor playing Marvin Gaye has grown more confident, making the production even better than in was the first time around.

Everything this company usually does well—costumes, sets, performances and musical support (direction by James (Jay) E. Dodge, II)—are all in place. The supporting cast, Ariel Blue and Nate Jacobs as Marvin's parents, Emmanuel Avraham, and Michael Mendez and introducing Sasha Lumsden, Emerald Rose and Janesia Shanae are all fine. The script, created by Nate Jacobs, is one of his best, clear and concise. But what raises this production to must-see status is a knockout performance as Marvin Gaye by Sheldon Roden, simply the best performance by a lead actor that I have seen this season. In the second act, when Gaye has found himself as a once in a lifetime singer, Mr. Roden is phenomenal.

At the performance I attended there were several ladies who simply could not contain themselves as they swayed and reacted to the music. It was a good thing that theater staff had warned them to fasten their seat belts; otherwise, they would have become part of the show. I am positive their wonderful energy fueled the performers. Simply put, Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul is one of the finest shows I have seen WBTT do.

Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul presented by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, Florida, 366-1505. Through August 10, 2014. For more information, visit

Cast: Emmanuel "E-Man" Avraham: Frankie Gay/The DC Tones
Ariel Blue: Mother Gay
Nate Jacobs*: Marvin Gay, Sr/Berry Gordy, Jr
Sasha Lumsden: Leola Gaye/Anna Gordy Gaye
Michael Mendez: Announcer/Ensemble
Sheldon Roden: Marvin Gaye
Emerald Rose: Maxine Powell/Janis Hunter/Ensemble
Janesia Shanae: Jeanne Gaye/Tammi Terrell/Ensemble
* Member of Actor's Equity Association

Musical Director/Bass: James (Jay) E. Dodge, II
Piano: Todd Bellamy
Auxiliary Keyboard: Jeff Cash, Jr.
Drums: Donald Watts

Director: Nate Jacobs*
Production Manager/Musical Director: James (Jay) E. Dodge, II
Video & Image Designer: Yulner Diaz
Lighting Designer: Nick Jones
Costume Designer: Ron Taylor
Technical Director: Shane Streight
Sound Engineer: Eric Shanie
Property Master: Annette Breazeale
Music Consultant: Tony Moon
House Manager: Myllanna McKinnon
Stage Manager: Juanita Munford*

Photo: Don Daley

--William S. Oser

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