Alonzo Ramont directing Erica Goodman and dancers.
Behind The Scenes of Spring Sing: A Tribute to Women of Soul
Directed by Alonzo Ramont
By Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © by 2022 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Redline Performing Arts’ Spring Sing is an example of the kind of show that defies the easy conventions of the review format. Alonzo Ramont has either the luck in finding terrific voices or the ear for it, or both, and to declare that you are celebrating American Soul music almost guarantees an eager, hospitable audience – it certainly is a sweet spot for me.
Two nights before the opening I watched part of a rehearsal for Spring Sing. That close means it’s tech week, the time to finalize lighting cues, tighten up the music – the show boasts a live, five-piece band led by Music Director Sheridan Shanwi Williams – and basically tweak everything.
I saw Erica Goodman working through the Martha and the Vandellas’ classic “Dancing in the Street” with six backup singers and four dancers. Only a month ago Goodman performed at the 2022 Arts-Louisville Theatre Awards and she was glammed up that night, but in this rehearsal, she was casual and wore glasses so that I didn’t immediately recognize her, but it was fascinating to watch her explore the song. Director Ramont and Williams stepped in several times with notes and observations, shaping and “detailing” the performance with skill but it remained Goodman’s to own.
Ramont’s interjections remind me of a George Wolfe interview in which he explains that what pushes a good show to a higher level is a series of adjustments that might be nearly imperceptible to the audience: hold one beat before you deliver that final lyric, instructing a dancer on the exact beat to lift their leg into your partner’s arm. I don’t for one second mean to compare Ramont to theatre giant Wolfe, although each is a Kentucky-born, Black theatre director, but they are certainly swimming in the same waters.
Next up was Ann Morgan Heath running through two Bonnie Raitt songs, and while I might argue whether or not they would be classified as “Soul” Heath certainly rendered them in a soulful manner.
And Stage Manager Stephanie Collins displayed an easy authority in shepherding the comings and goings, proving once again how indispensable a good Stage Manager is. While all of the is based on a little more than one hour I think it speaks to the idea that the most important directorial decisions are choosing the members of your team. Ramont’s trust in his team seems complete.
The final performer I watched rehearse was the one-and-only Erica Denise. As a singer, she has the brass to take on the immortal Etta James’ “At Last”, a number that might prove intimidating to many performers, but which, even when assuming Denise was holding back because it was a rehearsal, felt well-served by her powerful voice.
At the moment the interactions were clearly a group of professionals who understand their jobs and work in harmony to accomplish each element under their responsibility. Yet through all of this professionalism, there was joy on the stage, even if it was not projecting at the level we might see Friday and Saturday night; a slice of the Great American Songbook devoted to music that reaches inside you and stirs your soul.
Spring Sing: A Tribute to Women of Soul
April 1 & 2 @ 8:00 pm
For tickets click HERE.
Redline Performing Arts
1433 S, Shelby St.
Louisville, KY 40217
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.