Tuesday, May 07, 2019

"Jubilee" at Arena Stage

Content warnings: recountings of slavery, onstage racial microagressions, and a racist mob attack. 
While the program says nineteenth century and the present, the show focuses primarily on the original members of the Fisk Jubilee singers. In an attempt to raise money for the aging building they had been given to form Fisk, and possibly some ego in the part of their choir master, they ended up travelling the country and parts of Europe as well, performing. 
Technically, "Jubilee" is a jukebox musical, the over 35 (per the program insert) songs performed are all songs that anyone familiar with hymns and spirituals has heard before and possibly even sung in church or school. The glimpses intro the lives of the singers are small. The singers are all fabulous. Most of the songs are performed a cappella with simple choreography that allows you to revel in the harmonies being created. A few of the cast members listed operatic training, which becomes clear when they reach a song where they are featured, yet when necessary, they blended their voices into the whole. 
It was a delight that left me humming. 
It was wonderful to see two cast members from DC, as well as Greg Watkins (who was in "Aida") and Jaysen Wright (who was in "Smart People").