“Black No More” is absolutely brilliant! Presented by The New Group, this powerful musical has a book by John Ridley, memorable raps and song lyrics by Tariq Trotter, music by Trotter, Anthony Tidd, James Poyser and Daryl Waters, musical supervision, orchestrations and vocal arrangements also by Daryl Waters, fantastic choreography by Bill T. Jones and captivating direction by Scott Elliott. Playing at the Pershing Square Signature Center on W 42nd St., “Black No More,” is a stunning, creative piece of musical theatre that will cause you to pause and ponder. Ponder about those of us who sell-out and want to be White—so much so that we would be changed by science and take on a White mindset, even to the point of being racist against Black people. Though this musical is very comedic at times, it is also an alarm declaring that our community needs to wake up! We need to love ourselves for who we are and come together as a people embracing our natural beauty. It is also a musical that pleads for a stop to the hatred.
This musical has countless incredible moments as it tells the story of Max Disher, a Black man who lives in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, but while he makes money, he isn’t happy with his life. He is searching for what he feels is missing. Going out with his friends Buni and Agamemnon, he meets Helen– a White woman from Georgia, at the Savoy. It seems to be lust at first site as they both come onto each other, except, this is during a time that racism was more blatant and rampant then it appears to be today. When Helen’s brother Ashby sees Max with his sister, he doesn’t mince words about a nigger and his sister and how if they were in Georgia, he would be strung up by now. Before Helen leaves with her brother she also drops the “N” word. Despite this, Max now has his mission to be with Helen. He hears a Dr. Crookman speaking on the radio about his creation of a machine that can make Black people White. Dr. Crookman hails this is the solution to the race problem in America. Max goes to Dr. Crookman and has the procedure done. What the machine basically does is take your heart and soul and leave you with White people’s attitudes and approaches to life. Even the ones that rally against the Black community. Of course, with a new outlook on life, Max needs a new name and changes his name to Matthew Fisher. He then sets out to find Helen in Georgia. When he goes to Georgia he is accepted as not only a White man, but a very racist White man who speaks against the niggers! With this behavior comes rewards and consequences.
Meanwhile Dr. Crookman—whose name is very appropriate—is making $50 a Black person and is decreasing the population of Harlem at a rapid rate and causing the failure of businesses. Dr. Crookman, not only has no remorse, but he is also more evil than anyone originally realized. I don’t want to giveaway anything else. You have to make plans to go and see this and here’s more reason why. The singing voices of this sensational cast will give you chills and make you cheer. It stars Brandon Victor Dixon as Max, Tony Award winner Lillias White as Madame Sisseretta, a Black hair salon owner whose business is devastated. Lillias being Lillias, lights the stage up! Tamika Lawrence has a voice that illuminates the soul as Buni, Max’s best friend and Ephraim Sykes brings his A game as he powerfully sings as Agamemnon. Jennifer Damiano is wonderful as Helen. What’s interesting about her character is that she was raised in a household of racist, but she didn’t feel that way. She was as trapped as were her parents in their feelings of hatred. She was never allowed to be herself. She was never allowed to speak her mind. It’s interesting to question what happens to a White child raised in a house of racists who doesn’t share the family view? “Black No More” is done with an unbounded passion and poignancy! This mind-blowing musical will only be around through Feb. 27, make your plans now!