Through March 25|
DON’T BOTHER ME, I CAN’T COPE Paul Robeson Theatre/ African American Cultural Center,
Anyone in theater knows the term “revival,” that’s starting up a show no one has seen in many years.
Now, there may be good reasons why a show hasn’t been on stage in a long time.
It may just not be very good and there are a lot of those.
It may be a show built around a star which doesn’t do well without that star.
If you ever saw Barbra Streisand do “Funny Girl,” as I once did, and see a revival, you get the idea.
Then, there are shows which are revived because no one can understand why they haven’t been.
That’s where the Paul Robeson Theatre comes in, with its wonderful production of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope.”
Director and choreographer Carlos R. A. Jones had six-weeks of rehearsal and it showed, in the dances and the performances, of this show conceived by Vinnette Carroll and written by Micki Grant.
Back in the day, nearly a half-century ago, this was a major hit with 1,056 performances on Broadway then it mostly disappeared.
Not this time.
“Cope” is a musical revue, with a strong, serious edge, major production numbers to single songs, like Chalma Warmley’s “Looking Over From Your Side” to a lengthy look at dance, from “Black Bottom” to “Breakin’,” featuring the entire cast, especially Kayla Henigan.
That’s the strongest number in the show, demonstrating how good the dancers are with Jones’ choreography.
While this show is a revue, it’s a revue with a point.
It looks at the Black experience at a time of massive social change, as the Civil Rights struggle morphed into the Women’s Movement and Gay Liberation, against continuing “massive resistance,”
Songs like “Harlem Streets” or “They Keep Coming” of “My Name is Man” have meanings from the world around the show’s writers and social milieu
While there are new faces in the show, like Henigan, there are also PRT regulars like Charles A. Everhart as a stomping, dancing preacher.
One of the most interesting things about the performance I saw was the audience reaction.
Often, the cast of a musical will try to get the audience involved, something not true here.
The audience was with the performers almost from the beginning, with call and response to the events on stage and the message the show carries.
That’s why you need to make the run to the Robeson because “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” is a must-see show.
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