Director and choreographer Camille A. Brown and her cast of seven female singer-dancer-actors breathe life and vitality into Ntozake Shange’s still-potent mid-1970s touchstone for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf.
Opening tonight at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, Shange’s fantasia of poetry, dance and stories of confession, defiance, sisterhood and, above all, perseverance, holds a power that’s not been weakened either by decades or the loss of a once startling newness.Shange called her mix of spoken word set to dance and movement a “choreopoem,” a word as lovely and evocative today as it was when for colored girls (as it’s often abbreviated) began Off Broadway performances back in 1974.
If the word itself seems tied to its era, the form would take root and work its influence on any number of theatrical works in any number of decades, from The Vagina Monologues of the 1990s to this season’s Thoughts of a Colored Man.For such a seminal work, for colored girls feels like anything but a museum piece under the guidance of Brown, her each and every cast member, and a design team – sets by Myung Hee Cho, costumes by Sarafina Bush, lights by Jiyoun Chang, sound by Justin Ellington, projections by Aaron Rhyne, and hair & wig by Cookie Jordan – that combine into a sumptuous whole.The premise is clear from the start: A group of seven Black women, each identified only by her color of costume, a whimsical touch that gives the title at least one other layer of meaning, take to the stage in a commingling of movement and music, Juba blending with hip-hop and ballet and avant-garde, all developing in strength and union before the first tale is told.From there, the characters will tell or sing or sign
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