Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe artistic director Nate Jacobs has created a number of original musical revues over the years he’s headed the company. The current production, Rockin’ Down Fairytale Lane, is one that has obviously stayed somewhere at the back of his mind for a long time, since he first wrote a version of the show 20 years ago while working at the Westcoast School for Human Development.
He (and WBTT education director Joey James) have now revised that original show for a longer (perhaps a little too long) version that offers lively choreography by Donald Frison, a showcase for WBTT performers to inhabit fun characters, and a message of sorts for the audience, whether they be young or old.
The show brings together some familiar fairytale folk: a wistful Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk (the very young but talented Samuel Waite, whom audiences are bound to fall for), forced to sell his beloved cow, Cloverbell (Topaz von Wood); a bratty Goldilocks (Alitash Tafesse), perpetually disobeying her mother (Renata Eastlick, who also plays Jack’s mom); a vain Prince Charming (Earley Dean); and the sweet, animal-loving Snow White (Jai Shanae), whom the prince may fall in love with if he can ever tear his eyes away from his hand-held mirror. For more comic effect, there are also the three pigs (Derric Gobourne Jr., Joshua Thompson and Fred Taylor), at whose home would-be destroyer Wolfie (Joey James) aims his breath. In this scenario, the wolf is not very scary, but children might find the “wicked” witch Drucella (Ariel Blue), who’s scheming to get the prince for herself, a little frightening, although entertaining, too.
Their stories and the neighborhood of Fairytale Lane are set up for us by the three Fairytalettes (Khalifa White, Ashley D. Brooks and Cherise James), who provide plenty of sass and style in their numbers and their costumes by Angela Franklin-Mayo. Jacobs composed the songs for the show, which can sometimes be brief snippets just introducing a character or a theme, and they’re a mix of pop and more show bizzy tunes, brought alive with energy thanks to music director Jay Dodge II and his band. Among the more memorable: “Huff, Puff, Blow Your House Down,” the recurring character music for “Drucella,” and the hard-driving “Listen to Your Mother.”
While the evening is fun, and the cast engaging (especially James, Waite and Blue), the individual storylines could use a little more tightening or focus to fully cohere for the overall impact Jacobs wants to deliver. But there is sly humor as well as kid-friendly action here, and Jacobs’ direction is assured and well-paced.
Rockin’ Down Fairytale Lane continues through Aug. 12; for tickets call 366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.