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June 04, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-04

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Arts & Entertainment Page Six Friday, June 4, 1976
Musical hit not 'Raisin' applause

L ORRAINE Hansberry must
be turning in her grave. I
say this with regard to the at-
tempted musical adaptation of
her fine play A Raisin in the
Sun. The musical version, Rais-
in, opened at the Fisher Thea-
tre Tuesday night.
The play is a combination of
a black West Side Story and
Our Town. It opens with a
group ballet depicting the rough
life on Chicago's south side in
the 1950's. The choreography
was innovative and executed al-
most to perfection, but point-
They tried to employ impres-
sionistic techniques of Thornton
Wilder, using stark furnishings
and minimal props. None of the
cast were mimeists and they
looked like stiff robots jerking
their hands about, trying to
communicate with the audience.
One could determine they were
in a kitchen, but all other action
was lost.
The adapters (Robert Nemir-
off and Charlotte Zaltzberg)
never decided if they wanted a
231 south state
Theatre Phone 662-62647
Y 4

musical comedy or the original
dramatic story of the struggle
of a black family. This resulted
in choppy mood changes, rang-
ing from idiotic group produc-
tion numbers to touching scenes
between family members. The
play contained cheap comic de-
vices such as mouthy neighbors
and gossipy women who appear
sporadically tp deliver trite one-
THE ACTING was mediocre,
stereotypical and at times, just
terrible. One of the worst ac-
tors I have ever seen, Mitt
Grayson, played the part of
Asagai, a Nigerian student in
the U.S. His performance was
a caricature of a Latin-Ameri-
can Casanova; his attempted
accent was so bad it was com-
ical. Trying to be intellectually
romantic, he vocally resembled
Count Dracula-a pathetic at-
tempt at portrayal.
The Fisher brought in Vanes-
sa Shaw to play the part of
Ruth for the Detroit opening.
This was a waste of money.
Shaw did not adapt to the im-
pressionistic production s t y 1 e
and looked in need of a prop
d Fun-filled Week i
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most of the time. While she
tried to sing audibly, her arms
were hanging limply at.her side.
I wish someone would have
given her a prop to make her
feel a bit more comfortable;
she was making me edgy.
Autris Paige played her hus-
band Walter Lee. His first num-
ber, "Man Say" was done well
and I thought the show would
prove to be enjoyable. His voice
is penetrating, but he and al-
most everyone else lost their
diction after the opening song.
Paige did a macho stud version
of Walter Lee that amounted to
strutting around the stage with
shirt unbuttoned and hands in
Beneatha, the black woman
who wants to be a doctor, was
done fliply by Arnetia Walker.
I could not seriously believe
that this woman would ever at-
tend medical school. Walker
played her as a perky cheer-
leader with a flexible pelvis.
This mixture of cute-but-dumb
pom-pom girl and would-be sex
symbol did not manifest itself
into an image of a dedicated
student. I
FOR ANYONE who has had
the ill fortune to see the TV
show Good Times has seen the
character Travis (Darren
Green) was trying to imitate.
He did a poor imitation of the
youngest son Michael on the
show, trying to be cute, cuddly

and conniving. But surprisingly,
Green can sing.
Though I could not hear most
of his lines, he stayed in the
microphones range during his
song "Sidewalk Tree." How-
ever, the microphones gave the
impression that he was lip-
synching to a recording. His
voice is beautiful, but he is ob-
noxious. His song appeared to
be in the production so he would
have something to do other than
yawn and rub his eyes looking
as though he'd just woke up. I
think he could have been much
more realistic.
And yes, Virginia Capers did
play Lena, the role that she
won her Tony for. She was
merely good. The role demand-
ed three expressions from her:
grandmotherly,hstern and hurt.
These were achieved, in order,
by smiling, frowning and using
no expression. But Capers can
sing, even though she did not
have much to do; she was the
only performer who did not
need the microphone to be
heard and understood.
The musical has many faults,
and I feel its main one is that
it lacks credibility. The actors
could not mime, so they jerked
around an imaginary kitchen
looking silly. Beneatha is going
to a. dinner for African Stu-
dents, and suddenly a dozen
Africans appear, in full costume
(out of Chicago's south side!) to
perform an amazing African

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dance, that resembled some-
thing done for tourists in South
consistent with the 1950's time
setting. Some men appeared in
polyester double-knit pants and
platform shoes, two unfortunate
indications of the 70's. The wo-
men were consigned to rolled
up denims, saddle shoes, and
costume jewelry. Some of the
costumes used in the African
dance sequence were remenis-
cent of a high school art class'
first attempt at tie-dye and
The musical adapters (Judd
Woldin and Robert- Brittan)
were intent on drawing the play
out to three hours and filled it
with e n d 1 e s s unmemorable
tunes. There is a lengthy scene
at a church service that does
nothing except supply the chor-
us with a bad song and the
gossipy friend a chance to get
off a few cheap gags. There
was no reason for the scene to
exist, and it would have been
better for everyone concerned
if it had been aborted.
None of the songs are par-
ticularly outstanding, but there
was a clever one, "Not Any-
more," sung by Walker, Paige
and Shaw. With the three of
them singing together it was
possible to distinguish the lyrics.
The song is a mockery of an
'improvement association' that
was trying to buy their new
house so a black family would
not move into the neighborhood;
parodying the sophistication of
such groups.
SEVERAL technical details
were ignored and proved to be
very distracting. Ruth is a
kitchen maid, but Shaw sports
long, perectly manicured fin-
gernails, and most of her move-
ments centered about the pres-
ervation of her nails. The acos-
tics at the Fisher are not the
best and their present arrange-
ment of microphones is appal-
ling. They pick up a persons
voice only if one is in direct
range. Hence, as the actors
moved about the stage singing,
their voices would fade in and
However, the worst technical
fault of the evening occurs in
what could have been a very
moving scene. Beneatha tells
her old fashioned mother that
she does not believe in God.
Lena moves to slap her, and
the slap is done by a sound
effect somewhere in the bowels
of the theatre. It totally ruined
the intensity of the scene, but
if one were to look at it from
a comic viewpoint, it might
have been funny.
I found this musical to be
trite, boring, drawn out and a
insult to the original drama.
The writers and lyricists must
have never decided on a mode
and the result is a bad mixture
of musical comedy, cheap jokes
and attempted pathos. What has
all the fuss been about?
NUEW YORK (l,) - The At-
lanta Music Festival Associ-
ation has given $40,000 toward
the settings for "Aida," which
the Metropolitan Opera will
present on tour this spring.
The Atlanta association is the
sponsore of the Met's annual
visit to the Georgia Capital.
VIENNA, Austria () -- The
city of Vienna will contribute
nearly $6 million to support it
theaters in 176.

v y I L-L- Li L- r-N


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