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If anyone who loves live Christmas theatre and shows doubts that the adjective “Merry” isn’t an integral part of Christmas these days, then head to the show, Joyful! Joyful at the studio of the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe. The fifteen member cast performs 23 foot-stomping seasonal songs that features Christmas infused powerful songs inspired by different genres: Soul, Gospel, Rhythm & Blues. Add to this A list roster of talent, two soloists in the group who will literally blow you backwards in your seat with their powerful voices (Stephanie Zandra sings “Oh Holy Night” and you swear an Archangel is on stage singing); and Charlie “CJ” Melton is a showstopper as a soloist and is a 2020 graduate of Manatee High School, though he says he’s always loved to sing since age 10. Since then he’s appeared on WBTT stage in several other performances. Charlie was the 2013 winner of the Singers & Musicians Arts Conference in Tampa.
The measure of a show’s success is the cast themselves and the degree of talent each cast member brings to the stage. I’m telling you, this is Broadway material. It doesn’t get better than this, and the venue is intimate, offering great views of the stage. At Joyful! Joyful! I watched the reaction of the audience and there wasn’t one person who wasn’t totally immersed in this show, eyes wide open, smiles ear to ear. A true feet-tapping, hand-clapping crowd. How else do we show our appreciation? A standing ovation after EVERY song is performed. That is just how good this show is and how powerful the message of each song delivers. The cast includes a pool talent like no other: singers, dancers, musicians that include music from groups like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Staple Singers, and Stevie Wonder, as well as new versions of holiday classics.
The setting and props and lighting are classy minimal, but highly effective visuals. The themes of Christmas and Kwanzaa are showcased, and all are sure to be MERRY as they leave after the performance. I was so merry I even hugged and kissed the parking attendant, wishing him a joyous holiday! Others followed suit! JOY IS CONTAGIOUS!
Run – don’t walk- to your computer and buy tickets to West Coast Black Theatre Troupe’s Joyful! Joyful! You’ll feel like you just attended a 5 star New York City Broadway Show.
Kudos to Founder/artistic director Nate Jacobs, Donald Frison, the show’s choreographer, and Matthew McKinnon, the outstanding music director. What a dynamic team.
“This show is our Christmas Card to the Sarasota Community,” said Nate Jacobs during his opening welcome speech at the preview of Joyous! Joyous! 11/30. Sarasota Players are in their 94th season in full swing with a medley of shows you won’t want to miss. Joyful! Joyful runs now through Dec. 30, “A Soldier’s Play” (drama) follows January 18 – Feb. 18. A world premiere musical, “Ruby” , debuts Feb. 28 – April 7″ (a powerful, poignant musical based on a true story). In April, a tribute to the “Prince of Soul” (Marvin Gaye” is nearly a sell out, so buy tickets asap. The Marvin Gaye show features Sarasota’s Sheldon Rhoden – a Marvin Gaye lookalike and soundalike.
IF YOU GO
1012 N. Orange Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34236
~ Happy Holidays, Andrea Martone