Shout it from the rooftops: There is a brilliant, new, professional theater company that has the genius to combine young actors in training from the theater program at the City College of New York (CCNY) and established thespians in the business. Walk-in New Haarlem Arts Theatre Company is the brainchild of its founder and the company’s artistic director, Eugene Nesmith, who is also the chair of CCNY’s theater department.
The thought of bringing actors in training is one that helps young thespians build their skills along with their confidence as they work side by side with established professionals. The combination is simply harmonious, and you can see exactly what I mean if you go to the company’s current musical production of “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” playing at Aaron Davis Hall on Convent Avenue and 135th Street.
The musical journeys through some absolutely marvelous music-blues, country and gospel-demonstrating not only how well these types of music can flow, but also how quickly newcomers to the professional stage can bring their A game to the craft.
This is New Haarlem Arts Theatre Company’s first season and its final production of the season. This show is a great time at the theater. Some songs are funny, some sexy, some uplift the spirit and some take you to church, complete with the holy dancing and the double clapping-though that actually came from an excited audience. The musical is based on a book by Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor and Dan Wheetman.
The cast members shine so brightly that you will want to go again and again, but you only have until Aug. 21. The cast includes CCNY students Darilyn Castillo and Shawn Brown, recent CCNY graduates Tatiana Adams and Nathaly Lopez and amazing veteran performers Marvel Allen, Dameka Hayes, Gerald Lathan and Jeff Bolding, who also serves as the production’s musical director.
The cast performs with an excitement and energy you will thoroughly enjoy. It’s wonderful when a show can genuinely make you smile and lift your spirits while also tickling your funny bone. “It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues” allows audiences to experience phenomenal performances of “Cross Road’s Blues,” “Blues Man,” “Who Broke the Lock,” “My Man Rocks Me,” “Come On in My Kitchen” and “Strange Fruit,” to name some tunes. Additionally, there are also awesome, beautiful dance moves performed by Hayes.
There is something about this production that sets it apart from others. There’s a unique creative stamp that I recognized, and that is the stamp of the always amazing Alfred Preisser, who directs the show, and its choreographer, Tracy Jack. Preisser has a way of helping actors to blend their talents just right, and Jack’s dance moves are nothing less than breathtaking. This musical just wins on so many levels.