THE BASICS: DON’T BOTHER ME, I CAN’T COPE, the 1971 “musical entertainment” written by Micki Grant, (1973 Grammy Award) conceived by Vinnette Carroll, directed and choreographed by Carlos R. A. Jones runs through March 25, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 4 (March 23 sold out) at the Paul Robeson Theatre in the African American Cultural Center, 350 Masten Avenue (884-2013). www.aaccbuffalo.org Fresh popcorn, water, sweet ice tea. Runtime: A little over 90 minutes with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: In a month with over a dozen excellent theatrical productions in Buffalo, be sure to add I CAN’T COPE to your “must go” list. Billed as a “musical entertainment” it’s like a “revue” but unlike many revues 1, there are no corny sketches, and 2, there is a definite point of view: a realistic but not angry or stereotypical look at Black History in the 20th century up to today. It’s just a lot of fun.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Some shows take a few minutes for an audience to warm to. Here, you’ll already be warmed up by the three-piece combo of Frazier Thomas Smith (Musical Director) on keyboard, David Wells on bass, and Abdul-Rahman Qadir on drums. These guys are like session men – they can play ANYTHING – soul, rock, jazz, funk, gospel, and Caribbean. Then out comes the HUGE baritone voice of London Lee and the professional ballet styles of Naila Ansari-Woods along with jazz dancer Kayla Henigan and we’re off.
And there’s energy. Lots and lots of energy…
And there’s energy. Lots and lots of energy, from the opening “I Gotta Keep Movin’” to the non-stop history of popular dances (Charleston, Black Bottom, Jitterbug, Swim, Monkey, Twist, Break and Robot dancing and so many, many more, including one new to me, the “Madison,” all danced to the outspoken delight of the audience as they “remembered when”. The evening concludes with a gospel inspired moment led by Charles Everhart, Sr.
And, speaking of “remembering when,” one particularly touching moment for me was the ballad “So Little Time” sung by Taneisha Facey to guitar accompaniment. Wow. I was just 21 back when this musical opened, full of youthful idealism, and that song, as songs can do, just shot me back almost 50 years.
So, instead of spending your money on hair dye and rejuvenating creams, spend it on a ticket to DON’T BOTHER ME, I CAN’T COPE. You might not look any different after the show, but you’ll feel a whole lot younger and energetic because we all “gotta keep movin’.”
UP NEXT: BLACKBERRY DAZE, a musical (think AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’) by Ruth P. Watson and Thomas W. Jones, II, set shortly after World War I, when the womanizing Herman Camm is after the widowed Mae Lou, her affianced teenage daughter Carrie, and juke joint singer Pearl. BLACKBERRY DAZE will run May 4 through May 27, 2018 at the Paul Robeson Theatre.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!