Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amazing Grace @ The Nederlander Theatre

Amazing Grace, how do I begin to praise this production. First off, I had no idea what to expect... A musical about the song, Amazing Grace? Great, it’s going to be a long history lesson with musical breaks in between. I was so completely wrong.

Let’s talk about the set. This amazing, amazing set was used so creatively and used every inch of space. The most creative aspect of the set was the ship. Even though there was never a physical ship, they used ropes and pillars and traps, it was so beautifully orchestrated, and you felt that you were actually on the ship.

The one scene that was completely breath taking was how they staged a shipwreck and showed members of the crew drowning in the water. The lighting was wonderful, the choreography in the harnesses was wonderful, and I just sat there in amazement not even able to communicate my feelings.

Stage combat was a big part of this show, lots of history means lots of battles. And I thought the staging of that was very clever, using the slow motion and then switching to rapid speeds, again, the lighting was spot on and added to the wonder theatre magic. The choreography was great as well. We had beautiful tribal and African dancing which was so refreshing to see and only enhanced telling the story.

Now, this cast is so talented it’s hard to pick just one standout moment. Josh Young, who plays the lead, John Newton. Man can belt his face off and carry a show! Erin Mackley plays the wonder Mary, who may seem sweet and proper, but she manages to challenge the stereotypical idea of a woman, and Erin finds the perfect balance. Chuck Cooper!! Mr. Cooper portrays Thomas, who is John’s servant, and his performance left me speechless. I could not stop watching him, his voice so powerful, yet soft at the same time. His journey with John will stay with me forever. And this cast had some Broadway debuts! Nanna who was played by Laiona Michelle left me crying, her last song is so powerful, she’s a star. And actress Rachel Ferrera who plays Yema, was so much fun to watch. She used so much of her body to communicate her story that she didn’t even need to speak. The entire cast was phenomenal!

Again, I had no idea what to expect from this musical, and did they fool me! From the beginning with the happy go lucky opening number, truly alive, I thought “ok this will be cute’ and then the next scene we learn about auctioning slaves. This production found a balance where you can have a spirit of musical along with a deep meaning and actually learn about history. I think it is important that everyone sees this production. I left with an array of emotions, and of course singing amazing grace, how sweet the sound. (Which surprisingly they only sing twice.) This show is a must see!

Review By: Briana Burnside

Photos By: Joan Marcus

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