By Ernie McCray
The Ira Aldridge Repertory Players’ evening of music and dance was hosted at the Educational Cultural Complex in National City, but it was like a scene in Harlem — people smiling and flashing “What’s happening, y’all?” kind of greetings throughout the room.
As we sat ourselves, five men strolled up, like hep cats of the 30s and 40s in the shadows of the stage. One sat himself down at a piano. Another reached for his saxophone. The guitarist and bassist did likewise and the drummer got situated behind his set of drums. And they kicked the show off with some syrupy soul that filled every inch of space in the place.
Then the singers and dancers came in from stage left and stage right and stirred the house even more. It was like being in a Harlem nightclub somewhere on Lennox Avenue or 125th Street because these folks expressed the mood started in the Harlem Renaissance with their voices and their hips and their feet. They truly had the beat.
I sat there moving and grooving while Duke and Count and Cab and Louis Jordan came alive in my mind.
The music takes an audience into the thoughts of a people from an earlier time, seeking a new life. African Americans having traveled up north, trying to meld a down home culture of working in the fields with education and sophistication, bringing with them style and artistry that’s appreciated throughout the world.
The cast was captivating, to say the least. I would urge theater goers to catch the show and, as did I, “transcend,” as the show asks, “to a place that was colorful, and sensuous; a place of laughing, singing, and dancing; a place where life wakes up at early in the mornin’.”
You’ll love this shift to the streets and nightclubs of Harlem. It was “designed to brighten your spirits and lift you out of your seat.” It surely worked with me.
The remaining performances are:
Friday, October 3rd and 10th at 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 4th and 11th at 8 p.m.
Sunday Matinees, October 5th and 12th at 3 p.m.