Artistic Director Calvin Manson fills the Educational Cultural Complex, almost literally, with a tribute to Soul Music. Seven singers, finalists in a contest, dig deep into 20 songs, from Otis’s “Respect,” to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” to Sam and Dave’s “I’m a Soul Man” — and the immortal line, “I learned how to love before I could eat.”
Conceived by Manson and Eric Overstreet, the show begins in the lobby with 20-plus teens dancing in sync. The evening also includes performances by the Thunder Squad Drumline — a 30 member, marching/dancing troupe precisely choreographed by Tyra Hawthorne — and concludes with the hugely popular Teye Sa Thiosanne African Drum and Dance Company.
In the Wolof language of Senegal, the name means “keepers of the tradition” — in particular, of authentic West African music and dance. Wearing green and gold costumes, Teye Sa Thiosanne performed “Dundunba.” Two young warriors did “the Dance of the Strong Man,” accompanied by an explosion of djembe drums, the often goblet-shaped instruments said to be able to speak. The combination of daring/graceful athletic movements and percussive force of the rhythms riveted every eye and ear.
The show had a nagging, persistent problem: all seven singers had “hot” mikes. These kept most numbers on the same level of dynamics, whether ballads or rockers. At times they drowned out the lead vocalist and even the solid five-piece band.
Act one is a dress rehearsal for a talent show. The Producer/MC (often-funny though badly miked Galaxy Glen Reynolds) asks the audience to choose the “best of the best.”
It’s no easy task given the talent: Janice Edwards’ “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and “Mustang Sally,” Ayanna Hobson’s “What’s Going On?” Rodney Hutsona’s “Love and Happiness,” and Reynolds’ hilarious impression of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” Plus, some of the best numbers were sung by the group.
The real honor, a first ballot, consensus “Show Must Go On” Award should go to Carl and Eric Overstreet. I saw Dancin’ on Friday night. Earlier that day, they attended the funeral of their mother, Minnie C. Overstreet. She was such a legend in the community they had to move the ceremony to a larger church to accommodate an estimated 1300 to 1500 people in attendance.
If Calvin Manson hadn’t made an announcement in the pre-show, no one would have had a clue. The Overstreets hoisted the entire evening on their shoulders and propelled it with amazing energy. Carl Overstreet’s gospel rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” evoked the kind of reaction reserved only for special moments. When the song ended, the house went cold silent. Then cheers erupted.
I asked Calvin Manson afterwards how they were able to attend, and sing at, a three-hour funeral for their mother during the day, and invest completely in the performance that night.
“Minnie always told them finish what you start, no matter what.”
Minnie C. Overstreet (1922-2014). From her obituary: “Minnie will forever be known among her family and friends as a children’s Bible story teller with a strong faith and belief in God, conversationalist, opinionated, selfless, supportive, entertainer with an unconditional love for her family. She spent 35 years as an instructional assistant at Knox School.”
And while at Knox School, in 1980, she and two other teachers decided to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King with a little, three-block parade. It was certainly the first of its kind in San Diego, maybe even in America.