A terrific touring production of Drumline Live, presented on Feb. 25th and 26th by Broadway Series South, roared into Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on Friday night, and shook the rafters with its rollicking recreation of a HBCU (historically black college and university) football half-time show experience, augmented by pulse-quickening arrangements of marching-band staples and marching-band arrangements of rhythm and blues and Motown hits, gospel numbers, big-band swing tunes, and drums, drums, drums.
Created and directed by Don P. Roberts, who also serves as musical director for Drumline Live, and co-produced by Halftime Live, LLC and CAMI Ventures, LLC, this marvelous multimedia show starts with an educational segment on how ancient African rhythms evolved into current HBCU beats, and culminates with an “Ultimate Drum Battle” between individual drummers and an onstage recreation of a high-steeping HBCU drumline halftime extravaganza, with drum major extraordinaire Brian Snell leading the band and Slater Thorpe hosting the proceedings with style.
Sassy brass and woodwinds combined with percolating percussion to bring Broadway Series South patrons to their feet, time after time, to salute the show-stopping numbers of the second U.S. tour of Drumline Live with a series of standing ovations. Show highlights included the jumping jive of the marching-band segments, complete with caffeinated cheerleaders, and the American Soul music sampler during which band-members impersonated some of Motown’s finest as they sang vivacious versions of “Baby Love” (The Supremes), “Proud Mary” (Tina Turner), “My Girl” (The Temptations), and “Respect” (Aretha Franklin). A James Brown impersonator brought down the house with his mimicry of “The Godfather of Soul,” including the trademark splits; and a Michael Jackson clone moonwalked through robust renditions of “Billie Jean” and “Thriller.”
Ghostly drummers in fantastical neon-trimmed costumes drew ohs and ahs in a jaw-dropping “Midnight Magic” segment; and rousing arrangements of “Amazing Grace,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Amen,” and “I Just Can’t Stop Praising His Name” closed out Act I on a high note.
Act II began with a gritty percussion extravaganza (“Street Beat”), followed by an invigorating big-band tribute (“Swingin'”), a no-holds-barred halftime show, the “Ultimate Drum battle,” an “HBCU Drumline” demonstration, and a flashy grand finale called “Fancy Footwork.” Afterwards, the Drumline Live band marched off the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium stage and out into the lobby, where they played on for another 15 minutes or so, much to the delight of the hundreds of new fans that they made in Raleigh, thanks to Broadway Series South.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvL05NWYKMw.
Drumline Live: http://www.drumlinelive.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drumline_Live (Wikipedia).
Drumline: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drumline_(film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0303933/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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