WASHINGTON — "Cookin’ at the Cookery: The Music and Times of Alberta Hunter" is an excellent example of how musical biographies can succeed at evoking a life, letting the subject — in this case the great blues singer Alberta Hunter — come alive through narrative and song.
The danger in this kind of biography is that it may become a static recollection of the entertainer’s friends and the places he or she performed. Writer/director Marion Caffey avoids this pitfall, creating a script with plenty of action, exploring Hunter’s personal strengths, particularly her close relationship with her mother.
"Cookin’ at the
Cookery" begins in
» The elements
Caffey cleverly uses only two
actresses in the roles of the younger and older
Dale Jordan’s effective set places conductor/pianist William Knowles directly onstage and his three bandmembers (Tony Addison, Yusef Chisholm, David Cole) on a platform behind the stage. Marilyn Wall’s costumes capture the metamorphoses of Hunter’s life, moving from a simple cotton dress and work shoes to Jazz Age glitz to the elegance of Hunter’s later life.
» The ensemble
Most of the characters in the play —
Ernestine Jackson has the stature and voice to carry
off the elder Alberta Hunter, who wrote some of the most famous — and
suggestive — blues songs ever written.
» The finale
If you were fortunate enough to have seen Alberta Hunter perform, you’ll appreciate this tribute to her. If you don’t know her work well, "Cookin’ at the Cookery" would be a perfect introduction to one of the great artists of the 20th century.
‘Cookin’ at the Cookery’
Written and directed by Marion J. Caffey; musical arrangements by Danny Holgate
» Performances: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays; 7 p.m. Sundays; 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; through March 9
» Tickets: $35 to $30
» More info: 800-494-8497, www.metrostage.org