The Baltimore Center Stage closed its season with a bang by showcasing its world premiere of SOUL The Stax Musical. The musical was based on a book written by Matthew Benjamin. It was choreographed by Chase Brock and was the final directorial effort by Kwame Kwei-Armah before assuming the position of artistic director of the Young Vic theatre in London.
This musical was inspired by the legendary story of Stax Records (Memphis, Tennessee) and the rise of many musical icons such as Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Booker T & The MG’s, Rufus & Carla Thomas and so many more gifted singers. All of whom contributed to laying the groundwork for American Soul Music.
When I arrived, the lobby was already in full swing with music, singing and dancing. A crowd formed around the performers and some were dragged to participate in dancing. There were a few takers until the doors opened then we all spilled inside and found our seats. But we were already primed for what was to come from the actors/performers on stage and we were certainly not disappointed.
The actors/performers belted out tunes that had us rocking and singing along. I felt transported into time: the outfits (I couldn’t get enough of Rufus’ flamboyant style), the jive talking, and YES, the singing…WOW! But what I found most interesting was that this was more than a musical because the audience got to see up close and personal the struggles of musicians amidst the Civil Rights Movement. The politics, racism, and the power play between the radio stations and the music industry were all too real. So real that remnants are still threaded throughout society today.
Overall, this was a fantastic performance as the actors/performers did an excellent job in breathing life into this story! Two thumbs up!
Check out the trailer and one of the sets below: