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The Theater: Oh, When the Saints…

2 minute read
T.E. Kalem


Conceived and Directed by VINNETTE CARROLL

Music and Lyrics by ALEX BRADFORD

Additional Music and Lyrics by MICKI GRANT

Choreography by TALLEY BEATTY

They are making a joyful noise unto the Lord at Broadway’s Lyceum Theater. But the revivalist songfest is only half the show. The other half is a bacchanalia, a swinging, stomping dance orgy.

Vinnette Carroll, who wrote and staged Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, was responsible a few seasons back for a similar hit, Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. She seems to have a feeling for the counterpoint of spirituality and sensuality that is characteristic of the temperament and life-style of many U.S. blacks.

The play is based upon the Gospel According to Saint Matthew; the song titles indicate the progression of the story. First Jesus makes his presence known (There’s a Stranger in Town). He is swiftly ostracized (We Are the Priests and Elders and Just a Little Bit of Jesus Goes a Long Way). Betrayal follows (Judas Dance), then the Crucifixion (See How They Done My Lord) and the Resurrection (Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down). The company erupts in Choreographer Talley Beatty’s dance explosion of joy. This is much like the New Orleans ritual of the funeral parade — all dirge on the way to the cemetery and unholy glee on the way back to town.

Jesus (Stanley Ferryman) is mute throughout the musical, but as he is brought down from the Cross in a sculptured pieta, his body speaks the moving language of anguish. Dual aspects of Mary’s character are depicted by Salome Bey and Mabel Robinson. An electrifying showstopper is provided by Delores Hall, who seems to be AWOL from the heavenly choir as she sings I Love You So Much Jesus. That is really what this luminous show is all about. T.E .K.

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