Dreams of musical stardom always abound, which is why the singing competitions on TV always grab huge ratings. The same was true back in 1980 when From My Hometown, now at Karamu, is set.
As conceived by composer and performer Lee Summers, and co-written by himself, Ty Stephens and Herbert Rawlings, Jr., three young hopefuls arrive in NYC to audition at the Apollo Theatre. Each is from a different city (Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis) with its own rhythm and blues heritage.
The three guys start as rivals but then join forces to become Unity, a three-man group that, after the usual bio-pic tribulations, conquers the music business.
This show is all about the music, featuring more than 30 songs. That is both a good and a bad thing, since the performers have to nail a lot of familiar songs like “Me and Mrs. Jones” and “(Sittin’) On the Dock of the Bay”, which they only succeed at part of the time.
As Memphis, Miguel D. Osborne is the most accomplished performer, exuding charisma, and showing some stellar pipes, especially in the low range.
Tyrone M. Gordon as Phillly and Joel S. Furr as Detroit each have fine moments, but their voices are not up to all the demands of the songs. Gordon has a sweet falsetto but it’s nearly inaudible (even with a mic). And Furr tends to get lost in the melodies of his solo songs.
In addition, the choreography (uncredited) is fairly repetitive—lots of spins and struts—and the set design (uncredited) is literally a collection of brick walls for almost the entire show. This show cries out for more visual stimulation.
Director Nathan A. Lilly finds some humorous turns in the paper-thin storyline in between the tunes. But the back stories of these characters are not all that interesting and a bit forced, as they discover they’re all related as cousins.
With top-flight voices and razor sharp choreography, this could be a memorable musical treat. As it is, this production of Hometown is an R&B dream that never quite comes true.
From My Hometown
Through October 13 at Karamu House, 2355 E. 89th St., 216-795-7077.