Full of incidental music, original numbers, and gospel standards, as well as a book that combines comedic and dramatic writing, Who Do You Love? is an entertaining work that demonstrates the potential of musicals with religious faiths as the concentrations.
Reviewed by Eric Miles Glover
Who Do You Love?: A Gospel Musical Stageplay follows the trials and tribulations of leaders and members of the congregation of an African-American megachurch. Meet Nisa Armstrong, administrative and personal assistant to the leaders of the church, also a victim of domestic violence; see C. J. Zachs, both a reverend and an adulterer. At the same time, the musical follows the plan of Councilman Hanes, the embodiment of evil, to raze an apartment building that is adjacent to the church and subject the larger neighborhood to gentrification. However, the leaders and members of the megachurch neither solve personal problems nor recognize the plan of Hanes until the entrance of Hadassah St. James brings about healing.
Hadassah, the focus of the musical, is a follower of Christ with the power to nurse spirits to health and spread the good news. However, she maintains a weak relationship with Christians, and the Christian religion in general, as a result of experiences from the past. At the same time that Who Do You Love? follows Hadassah as she restores the megachurch to splendor, the musical follows Hadassah as she resists and then strengthens the spiritual life that she leads.
Full of incidental music, original numbers, and gospel standards (for example, "He Looked Beyond My Fault," "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," "I'll Fly Away," and "Woke Up This Morning with My Mind on Jesus"), as well as a book that combines comedic and dramatic writing, Who Do You Love? is an entertaining work that demonstrates the potential of musicals with religious faiths as the concentrations, though there are a few characterizations and subplots that can benefit from further development. For example, the leaders and members of the megachurch do not censure Eric Armstrong for domestic violence, as if the fact that he confesses to God is adequate. However, the writing, as well as the singing and comic timing of the ensemble, suppress criticism. Understudies Emily King and Dawn Richardson performed the roles of "Nisa Armstrong" and "Hadassah St. James" at the performance that I attended. Both King and Richardson were stellar. Actors Kathy Hazzard and Steven Strickland were stellar as well in the roles of "Sissy Jones" and "C. J. Zachs."
A gospel musical for believers and nonbelievers, Who Do You Love? offers both entertainment and healing.
Who Do You Love?: A Gospel Musical Stageplay.
Book by Shaunda Erikka, lyrics by Darrell Alston, Erica Campbell, Erikka, and Windy Barnes Farrell, and music by Campbell and Farrell.
Presented by Damascus Productions (Erikka, director) and Richmond Shepard.
Through Saturday, January 19th, 8:00 PM at the Richmond Shepard Theatre, 309 East 26 Street, Manhattan, (212) 352-3101. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes.
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.