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Posts Tagged ‘Sophia Mackay’

This is a quirky sixteen-year-old Off-Broadway musical by Kirsten Childs, with quite a mouthful of a title, getting its European premiere at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It tells the story of Viveca aka Bubbly as she navigates life from her 60’s childhood in Southern California to 90’s maturity in New York City, weaving in significant black history events along the way.

She’s a vivacious black middle-class kid who is first awakened to the real world by the Klu Klux Klan killing of four black girls just like her in a chapel in Birmingham, Alabama. Racism (and sexism) are an everyday occurrence. During her school years there’s both pressure and temptation to ‘go white’ to fit in; she even chooses her white doll Chitty Chatty over her black doll. In fact, that doesn’t change for a long time. Her relationship with childhood sweetheart Gregory never really goes anywhere, though he turns up again later.

Moving to NYC, after a period as an unsuccessful secretary she takes dance lessons and tries to break into musical theatre, with some success – enough for her to be able to break free and set up her own dance academy. The original score is serviceable rather than distinguished. I was expecting it to change with the period, perhaps from Motown to Disco to 80’s electro mush(!), but it didn’t – a missed opportunity, I thought. I also thought there was a bit too much time given over to childhood over adulthood.

Rosa Maggiora’s design is excellent, a stage full of boxes in which Tim Reid’s superb projections appear, and her period costumes are terrific. Josette Bushell-Mingo’s direction and Mykal Rand’s choreography are sprightly and chirpy and, well, bubbly. Sophia Mackay and Karis Jack were both great as older and young Viveca respectively. It seemed like more than ten on stage and there was a lot of doubling and tripling, one even quadrupling, with a stand-out comic performance from Ashley Joseph, who brought the house down in the second half as Lucas.

I didn’t engage with it as much as I thought I might. The quirkiness became a bit relentless for me, trying a bit too hard and sometimes seeming forced as a result. In the end, I felt the production and performances were better than the material and I’m not sure it resonates as much over here, in 2017, but I’m not the right person to judge that.

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