The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Shafrika the White Girl

No one wants to hear about the collapse of the perfect rainbow family!— Anika Larsen
Shafrika the White Girl
Anika Larsen
(Photo: Corey Hayes)
What do you get when you take a charming little girl with hippie parents of Norwegian ancestry, surround her with nine brothers and sisters— six of whom are adopted from countries in Africa, Asia, and South America— and raise her in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the eighties? Watch Jaradoa Theater's Shafrika, the White Girl and you'll get your answer: an interesting story with a charming main character, a so-so show, and a whole lot of white liberal guilt.

Larsen wrote this show about her experience being raised in the ultimate multicultural family, ranging widely in age, race and even disability, with no apologies for its focus on her personal relationships with her siblings, parents, and herself. The large and equally multicultural cast acts out various scenes from Larsen's childhood,. It's narrated by Larsen and interspersed with home movies and pictures of the family eating, playing and especially singing. Music is a major part of Larsen's life (in the fall she'll be joining the Broadway cast of Avenue Q in the role of Kate Monster) and much of her struggle to come to terms with her identity and cross ethnic boundaries in a racially polarized world is made easier by her ability to sing and dance.

The show itself has its share of musical numbers, though at times these seem more tacked on to the framework of the story than an integral part of the production. None of the songs are memorable. Still, the performers take on both music and drama with gusto and their commitment is one of Shafrika, the White Girl's best features. Director April Nickell let her cast find its own way and as a result the production crackles with energy, with enthusiasm that's is contagious so that I really did find myself enjoying the fun the actors are clearly having. Larsen in particular is talented and delightfully engaging. . .and obviously deeply affected by her upbringing in a world where not all was hunky-dory. Coming from a family so large and facing so many challenges perhaps made conflict and controversy an unavoidable part of her outlook. But the undercurrent of love is obvious and does tie everything together.

I keep coming back to the story, which is fitting, since it's both Shafrika's greatest strength and its most disappointing weakness. As interesting as Larsen's tale is, it just doesn't work very well as a theater piece. There's a lot of the "workshop" remaining here, with long periods of dialogue between cast members and too much faux-realistic emphasis on what the production should be. Initially these meta-discussions between Larsen and the rest of the cast members are charming, but after a bit the conceit feels amateurish, and eventually the action drags considerably as no one seems to know how to actually end things. This is made worse by a real lack of dramatic tension. Despite a number of ominous rumblings about the "negative side" of Larsen's family, the "bad things" she ultimately relates aren't nearly as shocking as she seems to think they are (her first encounter with racism is a lot milder than her reaction to it, for instance). I was partially kidding about the show's white liberal guilt. I don't want to dismiss Larsen's feelings, but struggling to fit in at Yale or coming to terms with her racial identity in a dance club in Norway strike me as a bit out of sync with the "We Shall Overcome" mantra which is literally and figuratively woven into the fabric of the piece.

Larsen has an intriguing tale to relate but since it's a musical it needs to hold up both artistically and thematically and Shafrika, the White Girl doesn't really do either. This is partly because as children we have a tendency to view everything that happens to us as critically important— but as we grow up, those incidents are put in a larger perspective. We never get that larger perspective and the result is a show more a workshop project than a professional stage show.

Shafrika, the White Girl
Written by Anika Larsen
Co-conceived and directed by: April Nickell
Composers: Tim Acito, Joshua Henry, Janice Lowe
Choreographer: Luis Salgado
Musical Director: Karl Mansfield
Associate Musical Director: Brian Usifer
Cast: Chloe Campbell, Anthony Comis, Stephen Gelpi, Chris Harbur, John Harrison, Ricardo Hinoa, Amanda Hunt, Anika Larsen, Zonya Love, Mario Martinez, Stephanie Martinez, Liz Picolli, Elizabeth Racanelli, Eileen Rivera, Lawrence Stallings, Shelley Thomas, Gregory Treco
Scenic Designer: Josh Zangen
Lighting Designer: Herrick Goldman
Costume Designer: Andrea Varga
Sound Designer: Mike Farfalla
Running time: Two hours (includesone ten minute intermission)
Jaradoa theatre company at Vineyard Dimson Theatre, 108 East 15th St., (212) 868-4444
From 6/12/09 to 6/28/09; opening 6/21/09
Sun. the 21st @ 7 p.m., Mon., Thurs.— Fri. @ 8 p.m., Sat. @ 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sun. the 28th @ 3 p.m.
Tickets: $18
Reviewed by Dr. Gregory A. Wilson based on June 18th press performance
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Shafrika the White Girl
  • I disagree with the review of Shafrika the White Girl
  • The review made me eager to see Shafrika the White Girl
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
Try for great seats to
Jersey Boys
The Little Mermaid
Lion King
Shrek The Musical

South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide


©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from