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Twisted Melodies – Donny Hathaway Story on Stage

 
July 4 – July 17, 2019
 
Entertainment

twisted melodies



I am not a fan of Black entertainer biographies staged as mini walk-down-memory lane musicals. This is not the case with “Twisted Melodies,” which is the story of singer, keyboardist, songwriter, and arranger Donny Hathaway. The 85-minute production tells his story magically, with a very creative mix of great vocals, good music, storytelling, and mental health information. 

Others obviously agreed, the play’s writer and actor Kelvin Roston Jr. did not have to wait until the end of the production for a thunderous applause. “The applause followed all the numbers and the play ended with applause and a long standing ovation,” confirmed Chuck Hicks, who was planning to return for a second showing as a fundraiser for the African-American Civil War Memorial.

“It really gives an insight of the issues a person who has mental illness goes through,” commented Courtney Williams, who also plans to see the no-intermission play again Thursday, July 11 with his senior matinee group (discounted tickets are still available, call group sales 202-399-7993, ext 2).

While many know the story’s tragic end, Roston’s superb voice and storytelling made the walk-down-memory lane enjoyable. However, unlike most staged Black entertainer biographies, the sound effects by Christopher LaPorte, projections of moving shadows by Mike Tutaj, and a final set movement by Courtney O’Neill punctuated the storytelling into a highly effective, spectacular show.

Only once, and for a very short period, did Roston stray into the mundane calling of names of people with whom Hathaway worked - - a practice that is tritely common in Black entertainer biographies staged as mini walk-down-memory lane musicals.

Instead Rostin explained his version of Hathaway’s inner thoughts as Rostin imagined Hathaway’s troubled last day on Earth. The exploration even included a few memorable lines including his feeling like a “dictionary with no words.”

There were several times toward the end where I assumed the play would end.  However, the real ending ended up being well worth the wait. The closing was explosively symbolic and very creative. It tied the production neatly together for a very memorable, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

“I liked the way they ended it,” explained Reone Brown. “It wasn’t dark, but it made you think; it made you wonder.”  
 
 
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