Cookin’ at the Cookery
Reviewed by Debbie Minter
DC Theatre Scene
January 29, 2008
Just when you thought you couldn’t get through another musical bio-musical chit-chatting about a late, great jazz singer, something new comes up that smashes your preconceptions and must be seen. Alberta Hunter deserves the best theatrical treatment around and Metro Stage’s Cookin’ at the Cookery is as good as it gets. It’s an outstanding rendition of music, drama, top of the line musicians, and, to top it off, two of the finest singers/actors on stage today. That’s right, Alberta Hunter is so good it takes two performers to portray her - each has enough razzle dazzle chops and moxie to merit a visit, together they’re dynamic, include an innovative, creative script by Marion J. Caffey, and you’ve got yourself a bonified hit. Cookin‘ is a loving tribute to the life and times of Alberta Hunter invoking the spirits of Bessie Smith, Fats Waller, Brick Top, ragtime’s Scott Joplin and a show-stopping tribute to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong that must be seen to be believed.
“You’re stopping the Show!” is a refrain that alarmed Hunter at first until she realized that was a Good Thing. Well, this entire show is a show-stopper with everyone hitting marks that keep climbing. Just when you think they’ve reached a pinnacle, the script whips out another stellar scene to propel the story, wraps it all in the great music, and takes the experience to new heights. That’s what’s usually missing in the bio-musicals, a bonified story. To finally see a perfect blend of well-crafted theatrical scenes and joint-jumping music served up by these delectable singers with attitude, flash and flair, is lip-smacking good.
kudos to Marion J. Caffey for turning a finely tuned
ear to the music and for providing such satisfyingly deliberate scenes. The script allows us to See
Caffey, who is merciless in pursuing what’s best for the story, stays glued to its twists and turns, effortlessly shifting roles between writer and director. He whips the script into a perfect soufflé. The production moves. Not only that, each performer portrays various roles, transforming before our eyes with kaleidoscopic clarity into Barney the crusty but loveable agent, a starchy nurse supervisor, Alberta’s mother, patrons discovering that “new music” jazz among others. In one terrific scene, they even portray aspects of the same character - each as Hunter, talking to splintered emotional sides of the other. Now That is Theatre!
have a solid grip on their various characters and reach into their bags of
tricks for one show stopping moment after another. Ernestine Jackson as
Costume designer Marilyn Wall outdid herself enabling characters to go from drab to fab with a quick flick of the wrist (and well placed fasteners). The band, under the steady and trusted direction of William Knowles, covers the range of musical styles in an easy-going, comfortable manner and ably supports the musical numbers with Smokey Joe’s Café appeal and showmanship.
Explaining why he
wrote the play, Caffey admits to being smitten by
Hunter’s determination, resourcefulness, and come back kid appeal. The title of
the show refers to the
· Running Time: Approximately 2 hours
Where: Metro Stage, 1201 North Royal,
When: Thru March 9th, .
Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8pm, Saturday-Sunday matinees 3:00 pm, Sunday at
Info: call 703-548-9044 or consult the website.