Taking its cue from your typical 1930’s musical where boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy gets girl the skillful creators of Trav’lin (score by J.C. Johnson & Friends) and (book by Gary Holmes & Allan Shapiro) have crafted an almost turn the tables version of this perennial plot into girl meets boy, girl loses boy and using her female wiles and wits to finally girl gets boy using three couples of different ages to depict how love can excite, confuse, anger and eventually lead to a happy ending with a great jazzy, honky-tonk infused score that is totally delightful, romantic and true to the period while leaving enough room to connect with our present day feelings about the subject.
Love is not neat and tidy as the unofficial Mayor of 132 Street and former Pullman Porter Deacon George Walker who has a smile that lights up the room (a robust and charming Doug Eskew) instructs. It’s messy. Especially for him when he befriends a new girl in town, Ethel (a sensational Brenda Braxton) who reminds him of a long ago love he had in Basin Street. Once you accept the fact that he doesn’t immediately recognize her you can go along on this inspired musical journey of love, betrayal and forgiveness. It’s one hell of an enjoyable trip. Of course Ethel turns out to be Billie of Basin Street famous for her Fried Pies who is hired as cook to begin her new undercover life. Not before she brings down the house with the third number in the show “Empty Bed Blues”.
There is the innocent niece of George, Ella (Karla Mosley) and her beau Nelson (Michael Jean Dozier) who is a trav’lin salesman of Bibles and is as shy as they come, reveling in his first date and first kiss. Remember your first kiss? This couple will bring the memories flooding back with their courting and date at the Renaissance Ballroom.
Nelson is instructed in the hows and dos of love by the skirt chasing, trav’lin and adorable Archie (Randy Donaldson) who can’t seem to keep the ladies away from his bubbling personality. The fact that he gives away a one of a kind scarf to each helps the attraction. His main conquest is the excitable and jealous Ros (the magnetic Soara-Joye Ross) owner of the local beauty salon.
There are so many highlights to the score that is unnecessary to point them all out but it is important to cite the musical director and song arranger John DiPinto whose orchestrations for the small on stage combo include a mood enhancing clarinet, saxophone and flute that allow each cast member to shine in their individual and group numbers, particularly “When You Fall in Love”. It’s such a treat to hear such fine musicianship directed with finesse by Paul Stancato who seamlessly keeps the action flowing, the characters alive, the humor crackling and the dancing dreamlike.
Now that you’ve been introduced please do yourself a favor and go with someone dear to you and be entertained by their romantic and conniving adventures in song and dance. You’ll be entranced. Hopefully there will be a great future for this production. Intact.
www.travlinthemusical.com at TBG Theatre
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