AMAS MUSICAL THEATRE
Donna Trinkoff, Producing Director * Rosetta LeNoire, Founder * Eric Krebs, Chairman
LITTLE HAM: A HARLEM ROMANCE
Based on the play by LANGSTON HUGHES
Book by Dan Owens, Music by Judd Woldin
Lyrics by Richard Engquist & Judd Woldin
Concept by Eric Krebs
Reviewed during the 2001 run at the Hudson Guild Theatre
Directed by Eric Riley
Orchestrations & Arrangements - Luther Henderson
Addl. and Vocal Arrangements, Orchestrations & Musical Direction by David Alan Bunn
Choreography - Leslie Dockery
Scenic Design - Edward T. Gianfrancesco
Costume Design - Bernard Grenier
Lighting Design - Rich Latta
Hair & Make-Up - Thelma L. Pollard
Stage Manager - Brenda Arko
Associate Producer - M. Kilburg Reedy
Publicity - Origlio Public Relations; Casting - Gilburne & Urban
Ben Blake, D'Ambrose Boyd, Venida Evans, Carmen Ruby Floyd
Jerry Gallagher, Andre Garner, Danielle Lee Greaves, Julia Lema
Kevyn Morrow, Stacey Sargeant, Joy Styles, Lee Summers
Richard Vida, Joe Wilson, Jr.
Musical Director/Piano - David Alan Bunn
Percussion - Greg Bufford
Bass - Tommie McKenzie
Reeds - John Rhodes
Trumpet - Rian McKenzie
Well! I loved the live music in this new musical adaptation of Langston Hughes’ LITTLE HAM. The band is an onstage cornerstone of the set, and provides great accompaniment. Most definitely, praise goes to performers Carmen Ruby Floyd, Stacey Sargeant, Joe Wilson, Jr., and Andre Garner for their vocal feats, for, excepting all other factors, these vocalists made this event a pleasure.
As a play, this one lacks dramatic tension. Ostensibly a tale of 1936 Harlem shop owners versus a less-than-convincingly menacing gangster, the plot seems to be ultimately geared toward fulfilling romantic interests, particularly between protagonist Hamlet Hitchcock Jones, AKA Little Ham, and tough-sell, self-made woman Tiny Lee. The gangsters are easily and comedically outwitted by a group of folks dedicated to preserving their way of life. An unlikely result, this, but one that guarantees a happy ending. So, suspend disbelief, and in just over two hours, all could be right in the world.
Along the way, there are definite highs and lows musically speaking. There are some striking solos and group numbers, most significantly by the performers listed above in such numbers as “No,” “Cuttin’ Out,” and “Big Ideas.” The tunes are also pleasing when sung by the company. However, there are some second-tier choristers here, who are all the more notable due to their melodic co-stars. No one is bad. It’s simply a matter of being not as good.
The set, which functions as a hybrid of two shops, a dressing room, an office, et cetera, is functional, but credible as well. It never overwhelms, and neither does it hinder. The costumes and hair, perhaps a bit too fresh for the time period portrayed, are still quite good. Along those same lines, we have the characters, who are more types than people. There’s the up-and-coming Ham, the pinstriped Louie “The Nail” and his grunting sidekick, Rushmore. There’s the gangster’s moll, Sugar, the self-made gal, Tiny, and let’s not forget the flamboyant Jimmy, just to name a few. So, in the vein of most musicals this is not about deep character studies, but does offer the audience easily identifiable types to pal around with for a couple of hours.
LITTLE HAM: A HARLEM ROMANCE. Well, the title doesn’t tell it all, but it does capture the heart of this new musical. You will hear some great singing and be able to enjoy an upbeat, positive show at the same time. So, check it out while you can.
- Kessa De Santis -
Read Laurie Lawson's review of the subsequent run as Little Ham: A Harlem Jazzical