So now that we've gotten the revolutionary historical significance of Girl Shakes Loose out of the way, let's talk about the show itself. Which, I'm happy to report, is fantastic. The score feels contemporary and fresh, the staging and choreography are clever and interesting (directed by May Adrales with choreography by Karen L. Charles), and the story of the titular "girl" is compelling. While it may not be the most original story - a young woman is devastated by a career set-back, painful break-up, and a death in the family, and has a (very) early mid-life crisis about who she is, what she wants to do with her life, even where she wants to live - what is original is a musical that "allows for the full expansiveness of modern, black female identity" (Artistic Director Sarah Bellamy).
|Girl with her girls (Tatiana Williams, Alexis Sims, and|
China Brickey, photo by Allen Weeks)
|Girl with her mom and auntie|
(Alexis Sims, Thomasina Petrus, and
Jamecia Bennett, photo by Allen Weeks)
Girl Shakes Loose is a catchier title than the more descriptive Girls Grows Up and Becomes a Woman. But that's really what it's about; a young woman figuring out how to be herself and live the life she wants, something we've all experienced or are currently experienced. It's as simple as that, and profound in the voices and stories being heard in musical theater of the kind that we haven't heard much before. Namely, black women telling the story of a black woman in contemporary America, all wrapped up in an entertaining, fun, moving, relevant, modern musical. Hooray! Go see this ground-breaking new musical at Penumbra before it, like the girl, flies off to other places to accomplish even greater things.
|the gorgeous and talented cast of Girl Shakes Loose|
(photo by Allen Weeks)
**If I've missed any musicals with a black female lead, please comment below.