4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Red Lights, Slow Time: Storyville at the Lyceum

‘What is our town coming to?” asks Mama Cecelyn. “We got whores, pimps, drug addicts, murderers, and liars in Storyville. But now we even have horn thieves amongst us. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.” She just put a “success spell” on Butch’s horn, sprinkling it with “hoodoo goofus dust” so he’ll become a star trumpeter in Storyville, New Orleans’ “Back o’ Town” district. Next thing they know, the horn’s gone. Which puzzles Mama C. because she “didn’t conjure up no disappearing act.”

Like San Diego’s Stingaree, shut down in 1912 and later demolished, Storyville was New Orleans’ designated red-light district (so authorities could restrict prostitution to a single area). Unlike the Stingaree, which had a full complement of whores, pimps, broken bones, and slit throats, Storyville also boasted the hottest music on the planet. Louis Armstrong, Charles “Buddy” Bolden, and Ma Rainey (who could have sung down Jericho’s walls) gave birth to jazz in the dance halls, dives, and bucket-of-blood saloons. In 1917, an ordinance closed the district.

The musical Storyville, currently at the San Diego Rep, imagines the end of that era. Butch “Cobra” Brown, former prizefighter, wants to KO the Big Easy with his trumpet. But as the boxing world had room for only one African-American, Jack Johnson, “Hot Licks” Sam rules the music scene. Cobra also meets opposition from Mayor Mulligan, local power thug, and Baron Charles de Frontbleau, a suave boulevardier in love with torch singer Tigre Savoy — as, it turns out, is Cobra.

Storyville originated at UCSD in 1977 — book by playwright Ed Bullins and directed by the late Floyd Gaffney. The new version, revised and directed by Ken Page, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden, sports one of the Rep’s largest casts (21), a raucous, hot jazz-style band (tuba included), splashy choreography (Hector Mercado), and multitalented performers. It also runs almost three hours, often without forward momentum, and its 31 songs cover, it would seem, every conceivable occasion.

Lately, San Diego’s seen great ideas for musicals — Sammy (Sammy Davis Jr.), Limelight (Charlie Chaplin) — but with weak books. Include Storyville here. The entire first act introduces characters and places (even a song about the “Blue Book,” which listed the names and addresses of every prostitute in the district), but nothing urges it on. Complications begin in Act Two, but 17 songs, many isolated from the action, stall momentum. The musical concludes by gathering up every loose end and tying them into a profoundly facile knot.

Although Mildred Kayden’s music and lyrics often feel more Tin Pan Alley than Basin Street, they include a potential anthem for the survivors of Katrina-like events. DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor’s Mama Cecelyn belts “The Best Is Yet to Be” to the heavens. Revisions and cuttings (and the script needs bunches of both) could begin by reprising this hope-affirmer at the climax.

You’d think casting Cobra Brown would be near impossible. Wanted: someone who can sing, dance, act, play trumpet, and have the physicality of a heavyweight boxing champion. Although he has to fake the horn, which Clifford Brown III — related to the master? — blazes behind the scenes, Alvester Martin III does everything else.

Something I don’t think I’ve seen before on a stage: as “Hot Licks” Sam, Victor Morris acts, sings, dances, and, when he puts it to his lips and you expect outside embellishment, actually plays the trumpet with panache!

Wearing Jeanne Reith’s costumes, from red-light undergarments to Fat Tuesday glitz, Natalie Wachen (Tigre Savoy), Paul James Kruse (Mayor Mulligan), Chondra Profit (Fifi), and Leigh Scarritt (Countess Willie) make bold contributions.


Often, for people who see a lot of theater, going to a play resembles dining out. You sit and say, “Feed me,” forgetting that someone had to chop the carrots, shell the peas, and set the table — and that most of what you see was handcrafted.

The San Diego History Center’s interactive exhibit, Dressing the Part: Costume Design at the Old Globe, immerses visitors in the process. Walls of sketches, several of them quality art, lead you into Gallery 5, where mannequins on platforms loom over you. They seem both larger than life (because elevated) and sharper than memory. Even if you saw the show, you saw the costume from afar. Up close, the detail is often stunning. Lewis Brown’s Portia (Merchant of Venice, 1991), for example, is hand-pleated silk. From three feet away, Robert Morgan’s Mistress Overdone (2007), a deliberately over-the-top sunburst of reds, golds, and greens with floral prints, is astonishingly garish.

The exhibit treats the subject with a variety of perspectives, from videos to dressing rooms where visitors can don a greatcoat or a gown. A key emphasis throughout: costumes aren’t just for a character and period, they’re also a tool for a specific actor. Anna Oliver’s elegant green ottoman gown (1998) recalls one of Craig Noel’s legendary retorts. When handed an emerald dress, an actress complained, “But I never wear green!”

“Of course,” replied Noel without batting an eye, “but your character does.” ■

Storyville, by Ed Bullins (reimagined by Ken Page)
Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown
Directed by Ken Page; cast: Tahj Myers, Natalie Wachen, Alvester Martin III, DeBorah Sharp Taylor, Chondra Profit, Victor Morris, Paul James Kruse, Dajahn A. Blevins, Cris O’Bryon, Andy Collins, Leigh Scarritt; scenic design, John Anderson; costumes, Jeanne Reith; lighting, Steven Young; sound, Tom Jones; choreography, Hector Mercado; musical director, William Foster McDaniel; orchestrations, Danny Holgate
Playing through December 12; Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-544-1000

Dressing the Part: Costume Design at the Old Globe
San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park
On view through April 15, 619-232-6203

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

The dine-in ghost kitchens of Barrio Food Hub

Dozens of virtual brands operate in a single building, and it has a parklet
Next Article

Popular moderns at The Shell

Wayfarer loses its way, but Payare keeps focus

‘What is our town coming to?” asks Mama Cecelyn. “We got whores, pimps, drug addicts, murderers, and liars in Storyville. But now we even have horn thieves amongst us. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.” She just put a “success spell” on Butch’s horn, sprinkling it with “hoodoo goofus dust” so he’ll become a star trumpeter in Storyville, New Orleans’ “Back o’ Town” district. Next thing they know, the horn’s gone. Which puzzles Mama C. because she “didn’t conjure up no disappearing act.”

Like San Diego’s Stingaree, shut down in 1912 and later demolished, Storyville was New Orleans’ designated red-light district (so authorities could restrict prostitution to a single area). Unlike the Stingaree, which had a full complement of whores, pimps, broken bones, and slit throats, Storyville also boasted the hottest music on the planet. Louis Armstrong, Charles “Buddy” Bolden, and Ma Rainey (who could have sung down Jericho’s walls) gave birth to jazz in the dance halls, dives, and bucket-of-blood saloons. In 1917, an ordinance closed the district.

The musical Storyville, currently at the San Diego Rep, imagines the end of that era. Butch “Cobra” Brown, former prizefighter, wants to KO the Big Easy with his trumpet. But as the boxing world had room for only one African-American, Jack Johnson, “Hot Licks” Sam rules the music scene. Cobra also meets opposition from Mayor Mulligan, local power thug, and Baron Charles de Frontbleau, a suave boulevardier in love with torch singer Tigre Savoy — as, it turns out, is Cobra.

Storyville originated at UCSD in 1977 — book by playwright Ed Bullins and directed by the late Floyd Gaffney. The new version, revised and directed by Ken Page, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden, sports one of the Rep’s largest casts (21), a raucous, hot jazz-style band (tuba included), splashy choreography (Hector Mercado), and multitalented performers. It also runs almost three hours, often without forward momentum, and its 31 songs cover, it would seem, every conceivable occasion.

Lately, San Diego’s seen great ideas for musicals — Sammy (Sammy Davis Jr.), Limelight (Charlie Chaplin) — but with weak books. Include Storyville here. The entire first act introduces characters and places (even a song about the “Blue Book,” which listed the names and addresses of every prostitute in the district), but nothing urges it on. Complications begin in Act Two, but 17 songs, many isolated from the action, stall momentum. The musical concludes by gathering up every loose end and tying them into a profoundly facile knot.

Although Mildred Kayden’s music and lyrics often feel more Tin Pan Alley than Basin Street, they include a potential anthem for the survivors of Katrina-like events. DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor’s Mama Cecelyn belts “The Best Is Yet to Be” to the heavens. Revisions and cuttings (and the script needs bunches of both) could begin by reprising this hope-affirmer at the climax.

You’d think casting Cobra Brown would be near impossible. Wanted: someone who can sing, dance, act, play trumpet, and have the physicality of a heavyweight boxing champion. Although he has to fake the horn, which Clifford Brown III — related to the master? — blazes behind the scenes, Alvester Martin III does everything else.

Something I don’t think I’ve seen before on a stage: as “Hot Licks” Sam, Victor Morris acts, sings, dances, and, when he puts it to his lips and you expect outside embellishment, actually plays the trumpet with panache!

Wearing Jeanne Reith’s costumes, from red-light undergarments to Fat Tuesday glitz, Natalie Wachen (Tigre Savoy), Paul James Kruse (Mayor Mulligan), Chondra Profit (Fifi), and Leigh Scarritt (Countess Willie) make bold contributions.


Often, for people who see a lot of theater, going to a play resembles dining out. You sit and say, “Feed me,” forgetting that someone had to chop the carrots, shell the peas, and set the table — and that most of what you see was handcrafted.

The San Diego History Center’s interactive exhibit, Dressing the Part: Costume Design at the Old Globe, immerses visitors in the process. Walls of sketches, several of them quality art, lead you into Gallery 5, where mannequins on platforms loom over you. They seem both larger than life (because elevated) and sharper than memory. Even if you saw the show, you saw the costume from afar. Up close, the detail is often stunning. Lewis Brown’s Portia (Merchant of Venice, 1991), for example, is hand-pleated silk. From three feet away, Robert Morgan’s Mistress Overdone (2007), a deliberately over-the-top sunburst of reds, golds, and greens with floral prints, is astonishingly garish.

The exhibit treats the subject with a variety of perspectives, from videos to dressing rooms where visitors can don a greatcoat or a gown. A key emphasis throughout: costumes aren’t just for a character and period, they’re also a tool for a specific actor. Anna Oliver’s elegant green ottoman gown (1998) recalls one of Craig Noel’s legendary retorts. When handed an emerald dress, an actress complained, “But I never wear green!”

“Of course,” replied Noel without batting an eye, “but your character does.” ■

Storyville, by Ed Bullins (reimagined by Ken Page)
Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown
Directed by Ken Page; cast: Tahj Myers, Natalie Wachen, Alvester Martin III, DeBorah Sharp Taylor, Chondra Profit, Victor Morris, Paul James Kruse, Dajahn A. Blevins, Cris O’Bryon, Andy Collins, Leigh Scarritt; scenic design, John Anderson; costumes, Jeanne Reith; lighting, Steven Young; sound, Tom Jones; choreography, Hector Mercado; musical director, William Foster McDaniel; orchestrations, Danny Holgate
Playing through December 12; Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-544-1000

Dressing the Part: Costume Design at the Old Globe
San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park
On view through April 15, 619-232-6203

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Popular moderns at The Shell

Wayfarer loses its way, but Payare keeps focus
Next Article

San Diego Reader’s Best Of issue 2021

Joshua trees in Mission Beach, Ace Hardware in Hillcrest, the regulars at Liberty Tobacco, the unnecessity of Balboa Park, “We live on the edge of paradise”
Comments
1

Louticia Grier, hair manufacturer and celebrity hair stylist, sets the house on fire with her creative hair designs, defining the tones and tapestry of the Mardi Gras of 1917 in the play, ‘Storyville’. The production is an explosive and riveting jazz play written by Ed Bullins and directed by Ken Page. The cast explores the visual portrayal of this Renaissance period in New Orleans history while Louticia Grier weaves her magical talent, depicting the sultry elegance of the hair styles and designs of 1917. Her designs silhouette the stage like the syncopation and melodic rhythms that created America’s greatest music – jazz.

Among Louticia’s many talents is hair manufacturing, where she creates hair pieces for men, women, and children from 100% human hair, enhancing the volume of her clients’ hair. She artistically crafts the welts and hand ties the hair to create her ingenious masterpieces.

Come experience Louticia Grier’s gift for hair design while taking a pivotal journey to a bygone era. Visit the shaping of the African-American culture while exploring and embracing beauty.

To View Louticia Grier's Work please visit: http://www.adivashiddenhair.com

Nov. 24, 2010

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close