Jack Batman and Bruce Robert Harris, organizers and producers of the annual GAYFEST NYC are risk takers. They take on gay themed projects by new writers. Giving them the opportunity to be seen and heard. They put on shows that push the traditional theatrical envelop so that they can support the Harvey Milk High School and offer scholarships to those in need. With little rehearsal time and with a show string budget they pull some wonderful, meaningful and powerfully moving shows out of their magical top hat. This One Girl’s Story is one such show.
Based on a true hate crime committed in Newark, New Jersey in 2003, This One Girl’s Story is inspired by the “proud life” of Sakia Gunn. A young African American lesbian who was killed one early morning when she was returning home with three other of her friends after partying in Greenwich Village. While waiting for a bus they were all accosted by a guy who thought he had found himself some hot girls until they told him they were gay and wanted nothing to do with him and so he stabbed one of them. That’s the back story.
In this cool jazz musical by Bil Wright (book) and Dionne McClain-Freeney (music and lyrics) Sakia Gunn becomes Cee Cee (Lacretta Nicole) and we see the events leading up to the horrific hate crime inflicted on these girls just out looking for a good time. The show is framed with scenes at the Courthouse, where a reluctant Patrice (Chasten Harmon) who doesn’t want to relive the evening is begged to testify against the guy arrested who claims Cee Cee ran into his knife. What she ran into was hate.
It was party time as Cee Cee and company get themselves prettied up and out of Newark. There is the very young Patrice who is tired of broken promises and talks herself into joining the group which includes Lourdes (Desiree Rodriguez) the wild Puerto Rican spit fire and Dessa (Zonya Love Johnson) – the on again off again lover of Cee Cee.
Their difficult and honest relationship is the crux of the story and leads up to the most beautiful duet from a score that is fresh and vibrant that mixes cool jazz, Latino rhythms, gospel, disco, rap riffs with just plain old good melodies. The music and lyrics are worthy of a recording and a paean to Greenwich Village (“the place where you can be whoever you want to be”) should immediately be adopted by the Chamber of Commerce. Dionne McClain-Freeney is a real discovery and I hope she is working on another score.
If the balance between the book and the score is a little off kilter that can be remedied. This One Girl’s Story has a lot to offer and shows great talent at work on all fronts. These girls can sing. It is nicely directed by Devanand Janki – who keeps the pace up and changes tone at just the right time while coaxing memorable performances from the entire cast.
Charles E. Wallace portrays all three distinct male roles that will have you checking your program to see if it is actually the same person playing those parts. And Tanesha Gary as Promise – the woman who Patrice meets up with in the bar that night is hot – especially while pursuing her with her seductive song “Closer”.
This One Girl’s Story is a powerful, promising and moving new original musical. Through June 6th. Tickets $18.00 at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex 312 West 36th Street. www.GAYFESTNYC.com
Photo: Gustavo Munroy