Saturday, December 01, 2012

song and dance

Friday night was a bewitching for the 51 at  hit the grilled cheese and musical path. (Don't confuse this with the grilled cheese and hats party, which does involve at least a common denominator, Cheesetique.) There's a stage vibe about town driven by one Nova Y. Payton, who's starring in the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls. I hear you; I know what you're asking - tell me more. Well, she's a local that the Signature Theatre has been featuring almost non-stop over the last year: Hairspray, Best Little Whorehouse, and Dreamgirls. It seems as if she won't be working the DC scene forever with the talent she carries. I'd been focusing on musicals for L. this year (she loves them, but might vaguely report that to be untrue) and Signature Theatre is the heart of musicals in this area. With that background covered for our readers, we headed down to Shirlington for the aforementioned grilled cheeses at Cheestique's Arlington location; well, I did the pimento grilled and she decided on their baked mac-and-cheese. Great service around with our waiter, at my request, scurrying us through dinner with an 8p curtain looming. Post dinner we ambled down to the theatre, settled into the sold-out house, and sharpened our critic's pencils.

Here's the short deal: amazing. Signature is much smaller than one might imagine from its fascade; it's only about 250 seats in 10 steep rows. For Dreamgirls the stage is at its full width with a very cool set that works not only the width, but the entire height of the room. I don't know nothing from theatre, even as I attend loads of shows, but this was the most efficient and sweet stage design I've ever seen. With a full band vaguely hidden at the back of the main level and perfectly mixed sound it was a show and sound to behold. Of course, post-declaration on my theatre knowledge, I'm perfectly happy to report that Payton is all she's cracked up to be - huge voice, great presence, I'll give her an award. As Effie really starts to wind up during the show, after about 30 minutes of development, there's a scene where she leaves the group, breaks-up with her brother, and for the first time in the show really cuts loose. I'm not kidding when I tell you that the row behind us actually broke into tears as her voice blasted through the theatre. Great stuff. Along with Payton, it's Cedric Neal as Jimmy Early helps bring it all home with his impassioned, deep, hilarious, and stunning performance. To have even an inch of the talent of either of those two would be so cool - if I could pull some Jimmy Early moves and songs then I'd be gold, solid gold. As far as pure enjoyment - best I've seen.

Our next outing is again to the Rudrum Theater to see the Santaland Diaries (Sedaris) the week before Christmas.

No comments: