By Megan Mooney
In case you don’t stick around for the whole review, let me just get this out there… Secrets of a Black Boy (Playing at the Danforth Music Hall) is a great show with a really short run, and I have a feeling it’s gonna be a popular one. So, why don’t you buy your tickets right now, figure out the rest of the details later.
Now, onto the review…
Fundamentally, theatre is about voyeurism, and watching this show is voyeurism at it’s finest. We see the secrets that these men seem to barely be able to tell themselves, let alone anyone else. Throughout the show an external bravado displayed during a farewell game of dominos before a community centre is torn down is contrasted by internal vulnerabilities that are disclosed only to the audience.
Secrets of a Black Boy also has a little bit of everything. Not only is it vibrant and alive, filled with music and choreography, funny and touching, but it’s also full of stuff for the theatre geeks out there. It’s got a touch of a Greek chorus, some Shakespearesque soliloquies, playful dialogue in a ‘realistic’ setting, and choreographed movement to boot!
It’s the kind of show that wriggles it’s way into your body, before you know it you’re dancing in your seat, or you’re gasping with surprise. The audience was invited to participate, and, in a highly non-Toronto fashion, they did.
I’m not saying the show was perfect. Some performances were more believable than others. Some things felt like maybe they needed some context – the slow reveal of prominent black figures as part of the set seemed a little out of nowhere for instance. But overall, the show felt good.
Personally, I loved the movement and choreography. Whether it was subtle synchronized motions in the background, or the full on stepping display, I loved watching these guys move together.
I like to try and make sure my reviews give readers an idea of what a show feels like, so that they know what to expect when they go to the theatre. This one is a bit harder to describe, because, well, it feels like a few different things at once. The audience was ‘warmed-up’ by a stand-up comedy routine that sometimes had me cringing, and sometimes had me laughing. Before, and after that there was music provided by DJ O-nonymous, who was onstage providing music for the whole production. At intermission there was live music. When things were in the ‘watching a play’ part of the evening, it was a pretty accessible piece. No bit artsy-fartsy (I like artsy-fartsy, don’t get me wrong) stuff, just a straight-forward play. There’s enough going on that if you don’t like what’s happening one minute, there’s a good chance there will be something you do like the next minute…
This really was a delightful way to spend an evening. Unfortunately my show-partner had to cancel on me at the last minute, which means I was alone, which is a shame, ‘cause I would have really liked to talk about this one afterwards. I can tell you that over hearing conversations in the lobby, the show was well-liked.
So, really, check this one out. It’s only on until this Saturday (October 3rd), so don’t dawdle, get your tickets.
– Secrets of a Black Boy is playing at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave) until October 3, 2009
– Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30pm, and Saturday at 2pm (no evening show on Saturday Oct 3)
– Ticket prices range from $20.00 to $68.50 and are available through The Music Hall Box Office at 416-778-8163, online at www.themusichall.ca, or at the door.
Photo of Darren Anthony, Shomari Downer, Samson Brown, Al St. Louis by Marc Lostracco