posted by Kamaad Tauhid @blues2jazzguy
North on South Central Avenue, the jazz and dance musical took their audience in a time machine and harkened it back to 1940s/50s Los Angeles . Back to the days of a thriving economy spurred on by lot of wartime jobs and plenty of vice to loosen up some of that money.. the scene was a stretch of town that took you from Downtown-north all the way south to Watts/Compton on a street named Central Avenue. This wonderful musical was completely the total package in every respect. Oh you had your great Musical numbers , sung by professional singers cast as not only singers but actors as well. The multi-award winning play was directed by multiple award winning Director ,Carla Dupree Clark, in which up to now has amassed 14 nominations and 7 awards, as director,co-writer or co-producer. This includes this 2017 project’s previous run in the mid-2000s which garnered 14 nominations and four awards. Clark is quite the able-bodied director that Hollywood should be calling soon. Supported by the partnership of TPC(Theater Perception Consortium) Mr. Larry Robinson Producer/actor/writer & set designer. as well as Tu’Nook( Barbara Alexander) Producer/Writer and casting director for the company. This crew has consistently nailed hit plays or musicals for the last decade or more.(ARE YOU LISTENING HOLLYWOOD!) First, Clark created a brilliant approach to opening the play by having a truth-teller or “Griot in a Tux” (Robby Royale aka Robert J. Carmack) comes out and tell you what you’re going to see, and how it was done, then, where.. after getting a few “Amen” on relating to the Black Hollywood moniker that was given the “L.A. Jazz scene” going back as far as the 1920s and 30s.
Blacks had their own way of “livin” and swingin” and going to Church… With a rich cast of characters, NOSC, opens in today’s time with an old man sitting at a bus stop, when a young man rolls up in a wheel chair .The story centers around the most famous and “notorious” club in LA history, The Club Alabam.. the West coast equal to New York’s Cotton Club. Glamorous patrons and famous black celebrity entertainers appeared night in and night out.
Clark’s piece offers a glimpse into what it must have been like as a person living during the days of gangsters; Mickey Cohen, or a Bumpy Johnson like figure in a character known as “Black Dot” , a man who owned lots of businesses and kept the small time hoods in line to keep the Cops away from the real gravy. Carla Clark’s production juxtapositioned the great music of the times with strong vocals and acting like lead actress,Windy Barnes . Barnes portrayed owner of the Alabam along with Larry Robinson as husband and wife team, Eloise and L.C. Lomax. A stand out scene from the play ..the Lomaxs are in a pickle, when gangsters are blackmailing them to gain control of their very popular and profitable club. She absolutely nails a song penned by her & co-writer, Andre Washington entitled, “Hold On”.
Barnes, a veteran actress from the musical stage beginning with her California debut in the national touring company’s The Wiz. Eloise character provided glue to the story of the Alabam’s plight and the overall story of the Jazz scene in Black Hollywood. All the greats were present in this magnificent showcase of glamour and Soul. Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, (brilliantly portrayed by jazz vocalist Pat Sligh), along with special guest cameo performance by jazz and pop singer/actress Ms. Eloise Laws… performing a blistering rendition of “Dinah Washington’s What a Difference a Day Makes.
Also appearing on stage was a electrifying performance by Larry Robinson’s portrayal of Little Walter and Dr. Richard Sanders as Muddy Waters on guitar and Robinson “trading fours” back and forth on Harmonica(They Jammed hard). Its rare to get all of the feel of a real life club and the soul and panache to boot. But Clark’s production North on South Central is in my opinion, Fully Copacetic!
Hopefully this play is Broadway bound or at least national tour.. I also must mention the great music playing band, Conducted by pianist Duane Laskey.