Boy, did it work! After seeing The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Playwrights Horizons, I remained in love with La Chanze and I fell in love with the show's creator, the magnificently multitalented Kirsten Childs. It was the first time I had ever seen a musical created solely by a woman and I was just blown away. Her music was so infectious and her lyrics so insightful, I was inspired. Since I saw that show, I've been fortunate enough to meet Kirsten and to say she's as kind and wonderful as she is talented is telling the absolute truth. I've been hearing her talk about her new musical Bella: An American Tall Tale for a while, so it was a no-brainer that I would pick up a ticket for its current run at Playwrights Horizons. [Sorry for the long backstory...]
Spoiler alert: I loved Bella! Maybe I would've regardless because I love Kirsten, but still. The show was supremely delightful, ever so smart, and slyly pointed in its politics. I just had the best time and seriously had a smile on my face throughout the entire evening. I even had one of the biggest belly laughs I've had all season in the second act! I wish I had the time (and money) to go see it again before it closes July 2. I have my fingers crossed that there will be a cast album so that I can listen to those irresistible songs again and again.
Reading the author's notes in the Playbill, Kirsten says she wanted to "...flip that script, to create a new myth celebrating the power and beauty of the black female body..." and she thought the best way to do it was to tell the story in the uniquely American storytelling form of the 'tall tale.' I think her idea works beautifully in Bella, because the breadth of imagination in a tall tale lends itself well to the musical pastiche that Kirsten works in - characters are so specific and the music they sing is also so specific to them, so no two songs sound alike. It's a musical cornucopia, sort of, and I loved how tailored the actors, characters, and songs were to each other.
|photo credit: Sara Krulwich|
|photo credit: Joan Marcus|
After enjoying the show so much (and, seriously, everyone should get a ticket NOW), I'm also enjoying reading opinion pieces by other women, women who may have a more visceral connection to the work than I do as a white woman of a certain age and certain size. I felt a kinship to the characters, but obviously different viewpoints abound. I'm going to link to two especially interesting pieces, both of which are extremely intelligent and both of which are responses to the critical reception of the piece, mainly (again) by the white male critics of New York. Maybe I sound like a broken record, but we really need to do something about this. Anyway, please enjoy these thoughts from Masi Asari, an amazing composer/lyricist herself (her blog post is HERE) and Sarah Lunnie, whose public Facebook post is HERE. They talk about much of what I loved about Bella in much more articulate ways than I. I should probably work on being a little more dispassionate, and more articulate, about work from people I already love. It will go on my to-do list, right after I listen (again) to the Bubbly Girl cast album, which will have to do until I can listen to Bella again...
[actually, you can see a little clip of one of the numbers on YouTube - I'll link it here. and I'll remove it if asked]