Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
We spent a tuneful evening Friday as McCree Theatre continued their original musical entitled Sparkle Too. Written by McCree Executive Director Charles H. Winfrey, it tells the story in song of a young woman bent on pursuing a career in music even when warned of the pitfalls and obstacles surely to be in her way.
Of the nineteen musical numbers, ten feature lyrics sprung from Winfrey’s pen with music and arrangements the work of the show’s music director Phillip Young. It is truly an impressive homegrown production.
The story begins with Young Sparkle (Amari P. Robinson/Kristiya Amith/Mariah Thompson) already dreaming of singing for a living and asking “Mama, Why You So Mean”. Her mother has been down this road and tries to warn her daughter to be careful what she wishes for.
Time passes and teen Sparkle (Ariya Canada) enters a high school talent contest with her friend and wins singing “Mama Said”. They dub themselves the Rainettes and go on to win more contests often in competition with another group, The Chandeliers.
Singing “Honey Chile”, Sparkle and her mom (Precious Austin) wrangle a bit over Sparkle’s determination to continue down this road instead of going to college. Still the contests and appearances continue until Sparkle is lured away from her friends and convinced to go solo.
Mom makes one last poignant attempt to dissuade her with a potentially lovely “All That Glitters Ain’t Gold” however the band overpowered both singers Friday and turned the lyric into basically loud noise.
The second half of the show is almost all Winfrey/Young original music as we see Sparkle (Ayana S. Mitts) descend into a dark and dangerous life. She is a star but her life begins to spiral out of control. Her rendition of “I’m So Confused” is strong and “Living In The Past” finds her expressing some possible regret.
A happy ending is in the works although grief and sorrow have to be overcome before she can emerge happy and reunited with her friends and family.
Director Cathye Johnson has her work cut out for her with the large cast and the many scene changes. This group handles those scene shifts well with a minimum of time elapsing before the action continues. If there was a problem Friday, it was a technical one with microphones cutting in and out at inopportune times.
This play could easily be described as more a revue than a plotted play. The story does unfold, but the time between musical numbers is often short and songs are used to move the plot along. Fortunately this group has a history of musical excellence as they are loaded with strong singers and fine instrumental musicians.
If you are a fan of good music and an interesting tale of a young woman’s trek toward stardom, you’ll like this show.
Sparkle Too continues at McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Rd, Flint, MI 48505 through June 1. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-787-2200 or online at http://thenewmccreetheatre.com/sparkle-too.html