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“Sweetee” Debuts Off-Broadway

Photo by Matthew Murphy

The musical “Sweetee” with book, music and lyrics by Gail Kriegel, playing at the Ford Foundation Studio Theatre, located at 480 West 42nd Street in Manhattan, has a cast made in heaven. Every single actor, dancer and singer is perfect for their role. Jordan Tyson as Sweetee captures the essence of a poverty stricken interracial southern girl bred in the church. She has high moral values despite the fact her mother makes money the only way she knows how, on her back. Sweetee comes up in the South throughout the depression era of the late 1930s, early ’40s. A time when whites would shoot or lynch a black person simply for living.

Sweetee has a dream and a voice like an angel and the ambition to do something with it. She loves her mother but can no longer tolerate the conditions she lives under and longs for a better life. Naive, she runs away and joins a band of orphan musicians who are under the sponsorship of good looking, smooth talking Reverend Dan, portrayed by Jeremiah James, who has hopes for a better life for himself, his family and the band, but must live under the confines of the oppressive conditions of the South. Even though a white man and rebel at heart, he has no choice but to obey the Jim Crow laws imposed on his band. Rev Dan’s outspoken ways has gotten him and his wife banned from several churches. He places his hopes into his ragtag band of colored orphans anticipating they can open some charitable doors. Filled with optimism, Sweetee throws her lot in with the group and under Reverend Dan’s management travels from church-to-church attempting to eke out a living.

L-R Cedric Cannon, Jordan Tyson and Jeremiah James

Cheated and often broke, Reverend Dan has difficulty coming up with train fare to get the band from town-to-town, until one day Sweetee and the band of musical orphans make the acquaintance of a streetwise, fast talking, happy-go-lucky talent named Cat Jones played by Jelani Alladin who shows the band the ways of the road. Cat joins the band imploring them to get off the church circuit and start playing and singing money-making popular feel-good music to the consternation of Rev. Dan. It wasn’t long before Dan and Cat clash.

The band starts doing well with the new music under the tutelage of Cat but when Rev Dan books them for a church gig in NY, the band is divided. Sweetee is torn between her loyalty to Rev Dan and her love for Cat. She feels a responsibility to Dan so accompanies him to her hometown as a singer and then New York, frightened the entire time her traveling with a white man through the South could get them both lynched.

Some of the musical numbers consist of: “Amazing Grace,” “Nothing Comes Easy,” “Dream Big,” and “This Little Light of Mine.” The show music is feel good music: uplifting, foot-tapping and joyous. The cast, consisting of Cedric Cannon whose baritone is a delight to hear; Katy Blake, Adante Carter, Hugh Cha, Dave Droxler, Morgan Siobhan Green, Amir Royale, and Katherine Weber. All of whom make “Sweetee” a pleasant theatrical experience.

“Sweetee” has a two week run and ends June 18. This is a play of picking oneself up by their bootstraps and despite hardships fulfilling dreams. “Sweetee” leaves the audience wanting more. Get your tickets now!!!

About the Author

Journalist and radio host, Deardra Shuler, has a background in publishing, theatre, concert promotion, producing and was the former PR chairman of FESPACO, an African film festival in Burkino Faso. She reviews books, plays, theater and movies. Her short story was published by Penquin Books in Aurielle Ford's book "Mystical Souvenirs." Deardra has her own blog under Writblog and writes for several African American publications in New York. She has a column and radio show in Sweden entitled Music Pastures. Her show Topically Yours is on the Blakeradio Network, Rainbow Soul. She also produces and facilitates other radio programs that she has brought to the BlakeRadio network.

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