Through March 8
COOKIN’ AT THE COOKERY Daemen College/MusicalFare Theatre
It’s one of those fact of work life, the idea that you will have to change jobs and careers perhaps several times to get by.
Alberta Hunter would understand that.
Forced out of her practical nursing job by mandatory retirement, she returned to an old career.
At 82, Hunter returned to the music she had abandoned when her mother died, to game the system for nursing school and 20 years helping patients.
The hospital never realized she was far older than her paperwork and still allowed her to work past mandatory retirement.
Then, an old friend encouraged to go back to the music, the story of Marion J. Caffey’s “Cookin’ at the Cookery.”
It’s a great show with strong work from Zoe Scruggs as older Alberta and Ember Tate as younger Alberta and a bunch of minor characters.
Then, there’s the fine stage band led well by George Caldwell on Dyan Burlingame’s enveloping set with pictures from Hunter across the ages.
This is older music, from Hunter’s glory years in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties across the U.S. and as a real hit across Europe where America’s racial hangups were less of a problem than in her home country, with its patterns of hatred and lynchings.
Typical of the treatment of Black musicians in that day, she certainly never made the cash that White performers did.
You will recognize it, even the songs which get unique performance treatment because Hunter was an open Lesbian.
That’s “Jesus Loves Me” from younger Alberta to “The Love I have for You” for Scruggs’ Older Alberta.
There are rollicking versions of “When the Saints go Marching in,” “Darktown Strutters Ball,” “I’m Having a Good Time” and “My Handy Man.”
While “Cookin’” has a lot of the old MusicalFare tradition of a juke box show, it’s also far different because of the strength of Hunter’s story, the woman who never lost her love of music and of performing.
Get out to MusicalFare and see Scruggs and Tate in “Cookin” at the Cookery” and enjoy the life and music of Alberta Hunter.
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