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|A CurtainUp Review
From My Home Town
By Brad Bradley
--- Original Review By Brad Bradley
From My Hometown is the latest offering from the Amas Musical Theatre, featuring a load of classic rhythm and blues hits as well as a few original songs by the show's creators. The genesis of this show is understandable. Much good music of the past has been well-showcased in a number of recallable stage shows, ranging from often Broadway-sized tributes to composers the likes of Sondheim, Gershwin, Fats Waller, and Lieber and Stoller, to Off-Broadway reincarnations of performing artists ranging from Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday, and Patsy Cline to the current year's Hank Williams, the Mamas and the Papas, and Bobby Darin. But shows like this one that set out to honor an entire category of music have a tougher challenge, and the current production does not seem up to the task.
Performers Kevin R. Free, Andre Garner, and Rodney Hicks all are named by the cities of their characters' origins, Memphis, Detroit and Philly (Philadelphia) respectively. All are talented and entertaining, and they manage to carry the first half of this sadly under-written show, beginning with a smooth opening title number. Among the most-deserving familiar inclusions are "What a Wonderful World, " "Dock of the Bay," "Chain Gang," and ""Try a Little Tenderness." The four-player band is zesty and amazingly rich in its musicality, with Kenneth Crutchfield's drumbeat especially evocative.
The three guys arrive in New York around 1980, determined to score at an open audition at the legendary Apollo Theater on 125th Street in Harlem. Each character more or less tolerates the other two until lack of solo success causes them to capitulate and become a trio, destined for mega-success. But neither the group's evolution into success nor the show's script itself sustain interest, leaving the audience too much of an encyclopedia-like musical history. Only occasionally can we really savor the musical memories, for the original recordings too often linger in the mind more powerfully. And, alas, more than a few of the nostalgic musical servings play like stock audition pieces.
The visual production is solid, with clever use of limited scenery and projections (Matthew Myhrum) and lighting (Aaron Spivey). A standout among the three very appealing onstage players is the endearing performance by Kevin R. Free as the rustic member of the group. Amas has had countless impressive outings over its remarkable "34 years of multi-ethnic musical theatre" including the just-ended season's Little Ham and Zanna, Don't!, [see reviews: Little Ham and Zanna Don't!) but From My Hometown unfortunately does not add to the group's reputation.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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