Last week, the Broadway production of Love Jones hit the Ovens Auditorium with one sweeping blow.
Steven Allen Smith, Zadia Ife, and Melvin Childs, brought the adaption to abundant life in celebration of the movies 20th anniversary.
Although filled with mature dialogue, choreographed dance, and songs, the only thing reminiscent to the urban film, was the romantic story-line.
Otherwise, the sassy musical toggled around main characters, Nina Mosely and Darius Lovehall, played by powerhouse vocalist Chrisette Michelle and Grammy nominated musician, Tony Grant.
The original screenplay featured poets that used uncensored riffs—the dirty stuff, to tell stories and address their feeling subjectively while on stage.
The musical offered the same plot, but with old-school songs and remarks, speckled with sage.
The first act opened at a night club called the “Sanctuary” … Sounds familiar?
MC Lyte(Best MC in the universe), the club owner, is wheedling people from the audience to come up and perform.
“Hollywood,” played by Neo Soul vocalist, Raheem Devaugn, took a stab at the mic. He spits some lewd and offensive poetry that only agitated the women in the room… Of course, Nina’s short-tempered friend, "Josei Nichols (Soulful vocalist Angie Fisher)" challenged his lack of preparation and speech in front of spectators, and made a mockery of him.
Darius hit the stage after all that ruckus, and released a more eloquent and amorous kind of rhyme.
Nina and Darius lock eyes during his performance and the love-sparks began to fly. Nina writes her number on the palm of Darius’s hand after he introduces himself.
Now, this is where things take a turn—in the original movie, Darius and Nina talk outside the club and she writes the word, “love” on his hand. They later bump into each other at the record store and then he shows up at her house unannounced—stalk much?
Originally, Darius has about five friends, and they all meet at the same spot for casual conversation, a puff on the ole cigarettes, and a few drinks.
In the musical, they’ve progressed beyond that small-talk, and instead of the charming conversations and heavy chasing, they text back and forth which is more suggestive of today’s dating standards… The bar lowered tremendously over the years… How’d that happen?
The text messages appear on the wall so that the audience can follow the dialogue closely—Nina and Darius began sending cute subliminal songs to one another.
Each jingle is a familiar tune from artist like Dave Hollister, Gary Jenkins(Silk), and Michel’le. Now get this, the actual artist performed each song that Nina and Darius text to one another… hence, one of the reasons that it’s an adaption musical and not the movie.
In the play, Darius has about 2 authentic friends, "Savon Garrison" and his wife "Troy," played by Musiq Soulchild and Jackie Michaels.
As meddling as these two actors are, they bring on the laughter and frankness, which is a warm and fuzzy recipe that genuine relationships are made of.
You can’t have a solid production without a villain. Historically, there’s always a trifling bad guy, looking to shake things up for the naïve people. As far as the drama is concerned, that scamp just happened to be that echolocate morsel of a man, Chaz Shepard.
Shepard caught our attention in the death scene from “Set It Off.” He played Jada Pinkett-Smith's younger brother, “Stevie.”
Chaz vocals were astonishing. Who knew the boy could sing?
Speaking of which, a few artists performed, including Marsha Ambrosia. She looked so adorable, dressed in a red, silk trench-coat, and sneakers.
Ambrosia hugged her large baby-bump while belting out the mezzo-soprano lyrics to one of her chart topping songs, “Late Night & Early Morning.”
In closing: While the musical boasted the same romanticism as the movie, it was colorful and intriguing. From the dance moves to the vigorous vocals, and even the outside setting, where the rain drops beat magically against the umbrellas on-stage, the story served its purpose by reminding old fans and baby boomers, that you love who you love, and that’s that.
Steven Allen Smith: Writer/ Playwright & Activist
Zadia Ife: Writer, Producer & Stage Manager
Melvin Childs: Producer
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