Paul Robeson in concert

By - Mar 1st, 2009 11:46 pm
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Next Act Theatre

Restaging an exceptional character from last season, Next Act Theatre returns with the limited run of Paul Robeson in Concert at the Off-Broadway Theatre. This charismatic Black Columbia law school graduate, singing star, actor and activist began a career in the 1920’s, stirring American hearts through his music, political beliefs and protests against racism.

Paul Mabon reprises the role of Robeson with his resonant, magnetic bass voice recreating a personality larger than life. The concert’s first half allows Mabon full access to the set through intimate cabaret staging where he interacts with the audience. His combination of spirituals and show tunes from the era resound with evocative conviction, which spans the period from the 1920’s to the 50’s. Two standouts from the fine first set include the less familiar My Curly Headed Baby and Robeson’s signature piece from Showboat, Ol’ Man River.

The second set begins with Mabon introducing soprano Adrienne Danrich. Danrich previews a selection from Next Act’s upcoming season, This Little Light of Mine, which details the lives of singer Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price who were both contemporaries of Robeson. Danrich’s rich, vibrant operatic voice carries the house whenever she sings or speaks.

Several outstanding moments remain the duets by Mabon and Danrich, who seamlessly exchange their presence on stage during the second act, including an encore, and enjoy an elegant collaboration. Director David Cecsarini interjects a few moments of questions for Robeson to reflect on his life, while the musical accompaniment by Ron Martinson on piano and Joe Aaron on clarinet provided masterful touches. This evening of soul-searching by Robeson, Anderson and Price through actors Mabon and Danrich asks the audience to listen and learn from other men and women mirroring similar lives to Robeson when he claims that he, “stood firm in his beliefs, and his ideals were beauty and truth.”

Next Act Theatre presents “Paul Robeson in Concert” until March 1 at the Off-Broadway Theatre. The final show of the 2008/09 season will be The Pavilion, opening April 2. Subscriptions for 2009-2010 include “This Little Light of Mine” with Adrienne Danrich.

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