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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Energetic, Entertaining ‘Snowy Nite’ at Anacostia Playhouse

In this semi-post COVID time most people are more than ready to get “back to normal” as soon as possible.  The opportunity to safely socialize, be entertained and just have a good time is indeed compelling.

Theatre is the ideal venue for this to be realized and the DC area is currently blessed to have the perfect opportunity to experience this renascence. The Anacostia Playhouse (2020 Shannon Pl. SE) is reopening with a production of A Snowy Nite At the Dew Drop In. 

I attended the opening night this past Saturday evening, not knowing what to expect, not being familiar with the piece. Wow, wasn’t I in for a delightful surprise!  It is not a play, but rather an energetic, entertaining musical revue in the manner of Ain’t Misbehaving.

The stellar cast is an ensemble of six performers, three male and three female performers (Marcel Miller, Robert Person, Fashad Tyler, Ayanna Hardy, Sherice Payne and Yvette Spears) and a musical trio (William Knowles – Music Director & Piano, Michael Fitzhugh – Trumpet and Mark Saltman – Bass).  Like most such productions, there is no distinct plot or storyline, but rather a quixotic sampling of some of the best jazz, blues and be-bop music in America’s history.

The selected music gives various points of view on love, loss, pain, sorrow, redemption and joy and istening to the vocally accomplished artists allows one to take a trip down memory lane recalling when you first heard some of the songs as well and how they may have applied to your life at the time or even if for the first time (because of the universality of the messages). The song list is represented by signature performances by the likes of  Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Ruth Brown, Eartha Kitt, Etta James, Deacon Jones, Louis Jourdan, Charles Brown and The Dominoes, just to name a few.

The scene is actually set in the theatre lobby. Above the theatre entrance is a constructed representation of the actual entrance into the Dew Drop Inn (a very clever lead-in).

Once in the theatre the stage is set to actually give you the feeling  of being in a jazz club or bistro. You don’t feel like you’re in an audience, but actually at the club grooving!  There is no intermission, so it’s a nonstop hullaballoo of soul-stirring music and  foot-stomping, engaging interplay between the players (cleverly choreographed by Shawna Williams in such a limited space).

The cast is uniformly entertaining, but standouts were Sherrice Payne’s stirring rendition of, “Guess Who I Saw Today”, popularized by Nancy Wilsion;  Yvette Spears’ rich, contralto take on, “This Bitter Earth”, popularized by Dinah Washington and Robert Person and Fashad Tyler’s unusual, male version of, “Aint Nobody’s Business If I Do”, best known as a Billie Holiday staple.  The audience was rapt with enjoyment and responded heartily to certain telling moments in many of the songs. This presentation is a highly engaging one whether you are familiar with the music or not.

This memorable evening of this delightful, good time was put together and ably directed by Artistic Director, Stephawn Stephens, who, in his program notes, made a special acknowledgement to James Foster, a DC  native and current New York-based-actor for the conception of,  A Snowy Nite a the Dew Drop Inn, in 2007 (originally titled, “J’s Juke Joint”). This show will cure whatever blues you are currently experiencing and will lift you up with joy and celebration.

Get your tickets to a performance Anacostia Playhouse for a spirit-uplifting experience. The show runs through January 9, 2022.

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