Friday, December 5, 2014

REVIEW: When Good Broccoli Goes Bad: MPAACT

We had the opportunity to see a play at our local park (Broadway Armory)  It was a free play put on by a Chicago group called MPAACT  a group who according to their website...

"exists to develop, nurture, and sustain Afrikan Centered Theatre (ACT), an artistic expression grounded in the many cultures and traditions of the Afrikan continent and its Diaspora"   

A noble cause, for sure, and while not particularly my cause, one of the reasons I like to go to the theatre is to open my mind.  (One of my favorite theatres in Providence is Brown University's Rites and Reasons Theatre for just that reason.  They don't put on the plays I like the best or I think are the best produced or the best written, but it comes at issues and ideas from a whole different angle than I ever would have, and that's plain awesome.

Broccoli (also known as Baby B)
The play we saw was called "When Good Broccoli Goes Bad" and it was a musical that used a lot of popular music styles (gospel, blues, r&b, rap) to provide a cautionary tale about a young Broccoli who gets curious about the world she doesn't know.  

The show started with a gospel sermon of vegetables in the crisper (people dressed as vegetables)  Brother Spinach is laying it out why fresh vegetables are good to be eaten, Sister Corn is testifying, and Brother Collards is a little bit afraid of the Ham Hocks.  In this world it's noble to be eaten for a healthy purpose.

Little B (Baby Broccoli) wants to see the great wide refrigerator,however, and goes on a quest up the refrigerator, along the way meeting   2 quasi-friends- Salty Pork and Bacon, and a super slick singer named CS  (corn syrup).  There's a dance fight between White Bread and Whole Wheat, and at the end, Honey and Cane Sugar (and oh yes, Beet sugar too) help save the day. At the end, Little B is safe and sound in the crisper, has shed her bacon jacket, and is ready to be healthily consumed.

Corn Syrup was the villain of the show.
There was a lot to like about this show-- the singing was good, and the original music was fun ( although the sound in the room wasn't very good (they had 3 mikes for the 8 singers, plus a 4 person band, and everything was muddled. They really needed to either have each singer grab the mic directly, or get headsets for the main players.  The costumes were also fun, if a bit silly.  (Baby B's Broccoli Afro was really the best of it-- the rest were like pretty constrictive and not so suggestive vegetable costumes.)  The actors were for the most part fine-- I particularly liked the actor who played Brother Spinach. 

My only criticism other than the technical element is that it doesn't seem to be very cost efficient-- they've got 12 people performing in this show, and either they aren't being paid enough, or they are charging venues too much.  I think they could get the gospel of the vegetable out a lot more if they pared down the actors to 6 with 2 musicians (still expensive, but  doable)

Baby B wants to be good, but her "Friend"
Salty Pork is very tempting
I like that this play is being done, It's a simple story that reminds me of an elementary school version of the gospel melodramas that tour on the chitlin' circuit.  And it speaks directly to the food desert problems that some areas of the inner city have.  And they gave out vegetables at the start of the show!)  

And the kids (including my 6 year old, who is not as vegetable tolerant as he should be) really seemed to like it!
Visit the MPAACT website to find out more about there work, and (hopefully) they'll put up some info about where the show is performing next.  And if not, just keep on eating stuff in the crisper, and stay away from Corn Syrup!

Here's a short video of one of the early Gospel numbers in the show:

And here's one of the blues numbers with a dance sequence in between.  You can see the costumes are clever.

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