Tell Me Somethin’ Good | The Black Rep

play_somethin-good.jpgRon Himes has assembled quality talent on stage and behind the scenes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sheer breadth of material from the 1950s to the 1990s covered in Tell Me Somethin’ Good is staggering. With the inclusion of over 60 tunes, Ron Himes has conceived a revue that plays like a musical history lesson, transporting us back to the humble and joyful beginnings of R&B, and revealing the lasting impact that these songs have had. The Black Rep opens their 32nd season with this classic from their repertoire, and it features a terrific cast perfectly capable of recreating these vintage numbers for a new generation to enjoy.

The show begins with a rousing take on the title tune. It then flashes back to the days of street corner doo-wop. The quartet of male vocalists run through numbers like "So Fine" and "Charlie Brown," with Brian Owens impressing with his vocal range, singing the bass parts on a few numbers before he takes the falsetto lead on Frankie Lymon’s "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." His version of "Sixty Minute Man" is a sexy sizzler. The female foursome of Lisa Harris, Rochelle Walker, Tameka Bradford and Sarah Stephens answers back with their own scintillating selections culled from the popular girl group recordings of the period.

J. Samuel Davis reveals his honey-dripped voice with a wonderful rendition of "Only You." Drummond Crenshaw hams it up in delightful fashion for a spirited run through "Tossing and Turning" and a Latin-tinged "Summertime." His comic reactions as he attempts to find a willing dance partner during "Gee Whiz" are priceless. DeAndre Perryman shines on a bluesy version of "C.C. Rider."

The ladies manage to strut their stuff as well, with Walker delivering a solid vocal on "I Had a Talk With My Man Last Night" and Stephens standing out on "Mama Didn’t Lie." But the highlight of act one is the extended Aretha Franklin suite. Lisa Harris gets the room rocking with "Think," following up with Bradford in an emotionally powerful version of "Ain’t No Way." Harris and Davis duet to good effect on "I Ain’t Never Loved a Man" before the show-stopping "Dr Feelgood" closes the act.

The second act features a plethora of familiar selections from the Motown catalog. Stephens headlines a tribute to the Supremes, and Davis does his best Stevie Wonder with warm and inviting turns on "My Cherie Amour" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." "Shaft," "Jungle Boogie," "Shining Star" and "Lady Marmalade" are all given cursory arrangements before the show heads into its stretch run. A collection of terrific downtempo ballads are neatly balanced against the upbeat strains of "It’s Your Thing," "Give Up the Funk" and the re-worked rap version of "Shoop." Boyz II Men’s "End of the Road" makes for a fitting finale, recalling and celebrating the music’s doo-wop roots.

The band, led by musical director and pianist Charles Creath, lays down a solid foundation, but I personally feel they should have a stronger presence in the overall mix. Creath is joined by Jimmy Hinds on bass, Molden Pickett on drums, Stanley Coleman on saxophone and Craig Florez on guitar. Florez takes a sparkling solo turn during the rousing rendition of "Dr. Feelgood."

Ron Himes has assembled quality talent on stage and behind the scenes. This breezy and entertaining production is aided greatly by Lazette Rayford-O’Brien’s energetic choreography. Her outstanding work, especially with Nicole Thomas and Heather Beal as the featured dancers, keeps the visuals from becoming too static. Jim Burwinkel’s bi-level set, bordered with over-sized 45’s from the era fits the theme well. Sarah Hughey’s lighting nicely complements the dance party atmosphere. Karen Perry’s costumes effectively capture the fashion trends of the decades covered. | Chris Gibson

 

The Black Rep’s fun and funky production of Tell Me Somethin’ Good continues through February 8, 2009. Call 314-534-3810 for ticket information, or go online to http://www.theblackrep.org/.

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