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‘Pride & Joy’ Delivers the Motown Sound and Swag in Spectacular Form

WASHINGTON INFORMER — From the very first downbeat and accompanying dance routine, performed to the 1959 tune made famous by Chubby Checker when he added his special touch to the tune “The Twist” just a year later, it seemed evident that “Pride & Joy: The Marvin Gaye Musical” had all the makings of an old-school, blue lights in the basement party, fueled by the phenomenal, new wave of rock and soul that would take the world by storm throughout the turbulent ’60s.

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By D. Kevin McNeir

From the very first downbeat and accompanying dance routine, performed to the 1959 tune made famous by Chubby Checker when he added his special touch to the tune “The Twist” just a year later, it seemed evident that “Pride & Joy: The Marvin Gaye Musical” had all the makings of an old-school, blue lights in the basement party, fueled by the phenomenal, new wave of rock and soul that would take the world by storm throughout the turbulent ’60s.

And while some members of the audience found it impossible to remain seated, they would be even more captivated by a repertoire of subsequent tunes now firmly entrenched in America’s Songbook — part and parcel of songs shared by Berry Gordy Jr. and his Hitsville USA vocalists, musicians and dancers — all members of the Motown Records family.

The musical, which marked its world premiere at the National Theater in the District on May 8, invites its audience to tag along to witness the previously untold fairy-tale romance of the legendary Marvin Gaye and Anna Gordy, one of the boss’s sisters and a highly competent businesswoman who not only bedazzles Gaye as his career takes shape, but also snags his heart — becoming his wife, mother of his firstborn son and co-writer for several of Motown’s most endearing ballads — songs inspired by the twosome’s love, creativity and, at times, volatile clashes.

The play, based on the diaries of Anna Gordy Gaye, comes to the stage with the blessing of Gordy himself who not only reviewed the script but handpicked one of the lead performers, Jarran Muse, for the role of Marvin Gaye in his younger days.

Playwrights for the production come from the collaborative efforts of Marvin and Anna’s son, Marvin Gaye III, Angela Barrow-Dunlap and D’Extra Wiley — business partner and longtime friend of Marvin III who also dons the roles of both Jackie Wilson and Frankie Gaye (Marvin’s brother). The music, of course, comes from the vast Motown catalogue under the guidance of Music Director Cordell Walton, along with energetic, fresh choreography conceived by Tristan Andrews and Angela Blocker-Loyd — each of whom hails from Detroit — the city in which it all began.

No one who really appreciates songs with heartfelt lyrics, beautiful harmonies and intricately-delivered musical accompaniments can honestly dispute the magical touch and impact that Motown, armed with a bevy of unforgettable songs, soloists and singing ensembles, has had on the nation and the world — even 60 years since its founding.

And it’s the sound, the soul and the swagger of the Motown sound that reverberates throughout “Pride & Joy” — with an emphasis on the music written and/or performed by the D.C.’s own Marvin Gaye. And what an amazing portfolio he left for the world.

Two actors share the responsibility of bringing Gaye to the stage and both are superb in their performances — delivering the extraordinary artist during his earlier years, Muse, and in his later years, Chae Stephen. Both gentlemen easily hit the mark, comfortably unleashing the resonating, conversational timber of speech, the svelte, pitch-perfect vocals and the alluring walk and aura that would become second nature to Gaye, making him a household name.

As for confirmation regarding the delivery of the two “Marvins,” this writer only needed to look to the left or right and witness members of the audience, both women and men, young or old, who seemed enthralled by both actors, particularly Muse — singing along, snapping their fingers, rocking their heads, clapping their hands or nodding while the actors’ delivered their lines to signal their approval and pleasure.

In fact, the entire cast does a bang-up job in this production, most notably Tony Grant in his impressive performance and superb vocal delivery in the role of Harvey Fuqua — one of Gaye’s closest friends during his formative years in the business and a talented singer in his own right. Krystal Drake also shines as Anna Gordy Gaye as do both Justin Reynolds, who easily caresses the falsetto riffs made famous by Smokey Robinson, and Kourtney Lenton, who gives a sultry, “song-sational” performance as Gaye’s beloved singing partner, Tammi Terrell.

If you can overlook some of the moments of inertness caused by portions of the script that could have easily been eliminated, or perhaps more effectively delivered by an omniscient narrator, then “Pride & Joy” is a show you don’t want to miss. Even a week later, the songs made famous by the unforgettable duo of Tammi and Marvin, soulfully rendered by actors Lenton and Muse, continue to resound in this writer’s mind, heart and soul.

OK, I’ll admit, this production isn’t as polished — at least not yet — as the similarly-themed Broadway hit, “Motown the Musical.” But it’s still a whole lot of fun and certainly worth the price of admission.

Check it out and get your groove on. I sure did.

This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer

Art

Four Seasons Announces Artists for 2022-23 Season

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, violinist, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

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The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.
The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.

By Mary Jo Hudgel

Four Seasons Arts announces its 2022-2023 annual series of music. Programming emphasizes classical music compositions with contemporary works incorporated. The series intentionally offers an inclusive roster of artists that reflects racial, ethnic, and musical diversity.

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone. The quartet aims to highlight the instrument’s remarkable versatility by presenting meticulously crafted repertoire from all periods of classical and contemporary music.

Both concerts will be held at: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., in Berkeley.

Four Seasons has scheduled other chamber music events with the Viano String Quartet; the Park Brothers Guitar Duo; Piano Duo Beaux Arts; Thomas Mesa and Ilya Yakushev Piano/Cello Duo; and solo artists Jennifer Ellis, Harp, Amadi Azikiwe, Viola, and Thomas Buckner, a pioneer in performing and commissioning New Music.

A complete listing of Four Seasons Arts concerts can be viewed at www.fsarts.org. Concerts are presented in Berkeley at St. John’s Presbyterian Church and the Berkeley Piano Club.

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Oakland Featured in Film “Bottled Spirits” at Oregon Shakespeare, Premiering Sept. 2 on Live Stream

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

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Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)
Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)

By Post Staff

Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2.

Three Black artists who live and work in Oakland — actress Margo Hall, writer Cat Brooks, and director Elizabeth Carter — teamed up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and International Production Company Black Lives Black Words to bring to life this tale of Oakland’s soul.

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

She straps on the daily armor of alcohol, cigarettes, and a sharp tongue to block out the constant ache of losing everything that ever mattered. On this day, however, a door she has been banging on for years magically opens, an ancestor arrives to help, and Louise battles her demons — and herself — in a desperate attempt to find the courage to walk the difficult path toward redemption.

The film is the first installment of the Black Lives, Black Words’ Films for the People series.

Said lead actress Margo Hall, “Working on Bottled Spirits allowed me to channel all of the souls of West Oakland. To be inside Esther’s Orbit, and to sit on 7th street where the Panthers marched-ignited something inside of me, that was familiar, frightening, and exalting. I was transported and transformed. Louise is now in me.”

Cat Brooks, writer, said: “This is my love letter to Oakland. I am so grateful to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words for this opportunity.  Most importantly, I am grateful to this town for embracing me, sharing its stories and struggles with me and allowing me the privilege of calling Oakland home.”

Director Elizabeth Carter said: “I am beyond thrilled to be directing “Bottled Spirits” for Films for the People. This effort conceived by Black Lives Black Words International Project (Simellia Hodge-Dalloway and Reginald Edmunds) and co-produced with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Nataki Garrett) is a dream come true.

You can watch a live steam showing of the film, Friday 2, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. at

https://www.stellartickets.com/…/films-for-the-people. Tickets are $20.

After the screening, VIP ticket-holders (cost $40 for all access) can hear from Cat Brooks and director Elizabeth Carter, and more.Lives, Black Word

For more information: www.osfashland.org/productions/2022-digital/films-for-the-people

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Exhibit by Renowned Black Photographer David Johnson Opens at S.F. City Hall

“David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” is an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall. It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

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From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)
From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)

By Godfrey Lee

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Galleries is presenting “David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall.

It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

The exhibition will be on display on the Ground Floor and in the North Light Court, and will be free and open to the public, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., City Hall, located at 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place, is closed on Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays.

“At this stage in my life, it is truly an honor to have this inaugural retrospective of my life’s work shown in the city’s most iconic building, SF City Hall. The SFAC Galleries’ recognition that my historic point of view remains relevant even in today’s cultural and political landscape deeply warms my heart and gives meaning to the sacrifice it took to achieve it,” said Johnson, who lives in Greenbrae with his wife, Jacqueline Annette Sue.

Johnson was born on Aug. 3, 1926, near Jacksonville, FL. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he moved to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed the San Francisco Art Institute) in its newly formed Photography Department led by renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Johnson was the first Black artist to graduate during what is now known as the program’s “Golden Decade” from 1945 to 1955.

Johnson, 95, is recognized as one of the most important photographers to document the joys and struggles of formative decades in San Francisco’s storied history, focusing his camera on day-to-day life, with special emphasis on the Black community in his Fillmore District neighborhood from 1945 into the 1960s, before redevelopment in the 1970s changed the demographic of the community forever.

He photographed passers-by as well as friends, gathering spots like churches and barbershops, children playing and teens hanging out, dance halls and jazz clubs, and the fight for civil rights.

“David Johnson is a pioneer, not only for his work behind the camera lens, but for his advocacy and leadership,” said Ralph Remington, SFAC’s director of Cultural Affairs. “Thanks to David, we have these beautiful images to look back on and learn from, showing us how far we’ve come, how much has changed and how much more we still have to fight for.”

Johnson opened a photography studio on Divisadero Street in 1949, and worked as a post office clerk, and as a reporter for the Sun Reporter. Johnson was also an organizer and civic leader who worked to unionize postal service workers, co-found UCSF’s Black Caucus, and photograph the March on Washington for the NAACP. He ran for San Francisco County Sheriff and later become a social worker for foster families.

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