Once again the Alliance Theater has scored a massive hit with "The Women of Brewster Place" which had its world premiere last Wednesday. Based on Gloria Naylor's novel, the musical's pulsating energy and sheer passion ensure it will have a successful run wherever it goes.
Wonderfully directed by Molly Smith, "The Women of Brewster Place" tells the story of seven passionate black women living in an urban housing project in an unnamed northern city in the early 1970s. Their struggles, joys and devastating sorrows are given voice by Tim Acito's, marvelous music and lyrics. With its blend of old-school funk and African-American spirituals, Acito's music elicits both delighted laughter and spine-tingling goose bumps.
The self-sacrificing and deeply spiritual Mattie played by Tina Fabrique, is the rock to which the other women gravitate. Fabrique's powerful voice soars to the rafters in the searing number "This Ain't a Prayer" in which Mattie pleads with her niece to let herself mourn the loss of her infant daughter.
Mattie's promiscuous best friend Etta Mae (played by Marva Hicks), provides much of the musical's laughter. But when Etta Mae laments another one-night stand in "Man of God" the audience gets a glimpse into her deeper hurt which she masks with a flashy bravado.
In a stand out score packed with soon-to-be crowd favorites, a few other songs also stand out: "Kiswana Browne," a funky number sung by Monique Midgette who plays Kiswana, a young woman full of black pride and idealism who is determined to paint the world over in a rainbow of love and "Tear Down the Wall" sung by the whole cast after a gruesome crime leaves the women of Brewster Place mourning the loss of one of their own.
Artistic Director Susan Booth's decision to use a simple set with few props puts all of the audience's attention onto the cast and their outstanding singing. In addition the play's small cast gives the performance a more intimate feel.
Already the Alliance has launched three Tony Award-winning hits to Broadway: Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida," Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" and Alfred Uhry's "The Last Night of Ballyhoo." Could "The Women of Brewster Place" be the next Alliance play to win a Tony? If this critic's judgment is good for anything, then the answer is undoubtedly yes.
Produced in partnership with the Arena Stage of Washington, D.C., "The Women of Brewster Place" can be seen at the Alliance Theatre until Sept. 30. Performances are at 8 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets are $25-$55 and can be purchased at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office at 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta or by calling (404)733-5000 or by purchasing online at www.alliancetheatre.org. The Alliance Theatre is located at the Woodruff Arts Center at the corner of Peachtree and 15th Street in Midtown. Box-office hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends. Tickets may be charged on Visa, Discover, American Express or MasterCard. Groups of 10 or more call (404) 733-4690.