Paradise Blue left Phumlani S Langa pleased that he'd ventured to the theatre as the story and cast deliver an indelible performance of this classic production.
The Market theatre
Showing until March 1
Director: James Ngcobo
Starring: Aubrey Poo, Seneliso Dladla, Pakamisa Zwedala, Busisiwe Lurayi, Lesedi Job
Of all the jazz joints in the world, we are taken to Paradise Club, a place where the finest quality jazz is experienced by the finest people in Detroit’s Black Bottom. Chairs are stacked on tables in what appears to be a nightclub, while a drum kit sits in the background with a bedroom setting to the right.
Blue is a club owner and a musician who’s running his late father’s jazz club. He’s a man with money on his mind and an underperforming club on his hands owing to too much competition on the strip.
Aubrey Poo assumes the role of Blue in this classic American production by Dominique Morisseau, set in times of segregation.
Blue employs three people –Pumpkin, P-Sam and Corn – at his club and inn.
Corn is a piano player looking to keep the peace, while Pumpkin and Blue are romantically involved. P-Sam, an antagonising figure, grows tired of living in Blue’s shadow.
Paradise Blue is intertwined with the Motown magic of the Motor City and the elixir of jazz. Something about this production is reminiscent of the lauded but too fluffy cinematic classic Casablanca, this time with a touch of melanin which makes it even better.
The production runs for two hours, which is time well spent. Seneliso Dladla (Black Tax) has chops and pipes. His accent was so convincing and his singing voice a pleasure to listen to.
The ensemble is completed by Lesedi Job who plays Silver, the most interesting character in this play. Silver is a black widow of sorts, a woman from New Orleans, Louisiana. She oozes sex appeal, leaving all the men about town in a tizz trying to figure out what happened to her husband, while rumours of how she might be an abundant lover and evil temptress swirl.
Every inch of Job was invested in this role, from her sultry saunter to the way she uses her hands when lighting a cigarette. Completely convincing.
The stage setting was pristine; theatre stages can be lit a little too harshly but this was smoky without the use of a smoke machine. The lack of cabaret-styled Broadway routines also allows for the music to take hold, strengthening the illusion set up in the theatre, which these actors welcome you into with their skill.