Mahalia Jackson Musical – Just Great – Seriously Great

Mahlia Jacson Musical – Segal Centre – Renee Lee Shines in this Gospel Feel good

I totally enjoy watching and listening to Renee Lee. There is something about her willingness to put it all out there that is completely appealing to me. She is a delight. We should be proud that she calls Montreal – home.

I’ve seen her several times over the years, although I did not have the luck to see her in Lady Day. So when I knew she was doing Mahlia Jackson – I was totally going to go. For the Segal Centre – the stage set was relatively bare. A ‘mock’ stained glass window in center stage, that became the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the March, some chairs and tables that stood in for her various homes. Even the supporting parts were minimized – one man to play all the men in her life, one woman to brilliantly play all the women in her life. The big spurge – and to my mind the least capable singers on the stage – were the Gospel Chorus.

My biggest negative about this otherwise top-notch production was the sound. A musical is all about sound – and because we were seated slightly to the left of center stage, the sound seemed to come from behind us when Renee used her microphone. This is quite disturbing, as you can well imagine. A bit like a badly synced movie – the mouth moves, but the sound is delayed. Since hearing Renee sing was probably the number one reason for us all to be in the audience – having sound this dis-jointed was a serious problem.

But Renee’s rendition of Summer Time convinced me that she can overcome anything.

A quick comment on the supporting performers – with the exception of the gospel choir (who really needed to have had more coffee before they walked on stage), they were quite good. The ‘male’ (the always great Tristin D. Lalla) gets to do Martin Luther King’s – “I have a dream” speech, while the scolding female parts were played with a great deal of conviction by a newcomer to me – Adrienne Mei Irving. Since her name is shared with that of my daughter – I’m sure I’m going to remember her in the future.

Bottom line – the Mahalia Jackson Musical is a great vehicle for Renee Lee. I’m really glad I got to see it – and when (not if) it returns – I hope you do too. And Segal – if you read this – FIX THE SOUND SYSTEM.

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