Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical
Anthony Wayne & Kendell Bowman
Brava Theatre Center (AnthonyKen, LLC, Producer)
Entering Brava Theatre lobby, audience members feel an electricity and excitement that continues its meteoric rise once inside the auditorium up until the moment the first blast of overture music finally erupts from the onstage band. The big “Sylvester” lights across the stage; the huge, three disco balls; and the audience members who are decked in boas, leather, and ‘minks’ only add to the anticipation and expectation that ‘This is going to be a very special night.’
When an echoing voice booms that “I want one more night” and is followed by Anthony Wayne’s grand entrance down the center steps as the magnificent Sylvester, the audience is clearly ready to ‘funk’ and party. But when Mr. Wayne and his excellent back-up singers begin to deliver “Down, Down, Down,” there develops a total community of folks who are enthralled and thrilled to live once again in those glorious years of disco. The falsetto heights, the clarity of tone, and the sheer volume of sound emitting from this reincarnated Sylvester clearly exceeds the expectations of each of us so lucky to be present. Mr. Wayne is not impersonating Sylvester. He is for this moment everything we as audience want the iconic star of gender-bending disco to be in real life.
But, Sylvester is not the only star of this show. Jacqueline Arnold, Deanne Stewart, and Anastacia McCleskey each deliver diva-worthy solos of the Motown era as well as serve as singing and dancing back-ups to the great Sylvester. (Ms. McCleskey and Ms. Arnold transition into the roles of the famous “Two Tons of Fun,” singers who were discovered by Sylvester and become his musical bookends for most of rest of his career.) Rahmel McDade rounds out the back-up troop with a beautiful baritone sound that also rings forth in solo and duet numbers. And excellence abounds in the five-member band, each of whom get to shine in spotlight moments during the show.
While the concert part of this musical is what eventually gets all audience members on their feet to dance at their seats and in the aisles, there is a moving and important story that Sylvester imparts in between his explosive musical numbers. The messages of his life’s journey are calling for us to recognize and honor who we are at our genuine core, to reach out to connect with others who will support that expression of our true selves, and never to let anyone suppress our pursuits of personal dreams. Mr. Wayne delivers this story in a deliberate, often emotion-filled manner, pausing often for the audience to take in what he is saying and to understand the depth of feeling behind the memories he is imparting. The book certainly is not as strong as the musical portion of this production, but it is still strong enough to leave its intended imprint.
This cast of New York and touring veterans gives everything that could be expected in one evening’s entertainment … and even more. Audience members leave smiling ear-to-ear, shaking heads in amazement, hugging strangers, and just standing in the lobby a while to take it all in – reluctant to leave the still-electric atmosphere they felt 90+ minutes before upon entering.
Rating: 5 E’s