The audience is still buzzing and people are still finding their seats when Colman Domingo emerges from the wings of Manhattan’s Vineyard Theatre and begins flipping through crates of old vinyl records. The stage is littered with 12-inch discs in their cardboard sleeves. Piles of albums even seem to form the supports of the apron of the stage.
Colman sits and ponders, listens to the strains of sweet soul music, looks out at the crowd, sees some heads bobbing to the beat and smiles knowingly. Soul music is, after all, called that because it’s good for the soul.
Then Colman hoists his tall, sculpted frame onto the stage and heads onto the stage, dressed sparsely with more crates of albums, a component stereo system — complete with a record changer — and a barstool, set against a backdrop of rickety basement stairs and the detritus of urban life found belowstairs of many a house.
As he moves onstage, the lights go down and the music goes up. And the crowd grows quiet — even though it won’t stay that way for long.
Welcome to A Boy and His Soul, a tale of growing up black and gay in West Philadelphia in the late 1970s. It’s Colman’s very personal, very moving and very musical tale. Coleman, who works with his childhood nickname “J.J.” (which his sister will turn into “Gay Gay” before the final curtain), portrays multiple characters. He flows from J. J. to his mother, his stepdad, his sister, his brother and more — with deft changes of posture, facial expression and tone.
With little apparent effort, he manages to transport the audience to another world, all supported by a seamless soundtrack of soul music — Smokey Robinson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin and many, many more.
This is the same Colman Domingo who made such a powerful impression in Passing Strange in its off-Broadway and Broadway incarnations. From this show you can see clearly that Colman’s Passing Strange characters were thoroughly informed by his forthright, warm personality. Yes, he’s acting in Boy, portraying a character, but he’s playing himself.
The heartwarming, very real show is filled with love and loss and will make you laugh and cry — often simultaneously. It will put a little soul in your stroll n matter what your age, sex or ethnicity.
Colman has traded in this orange Adidas track suit for a spiffy patchwork blazer. But the louver-fronted wood entertainment center, with its old-school record changer, survived.
Click here to read Colman’s story of the inspiration for his show. And check out this revealing interview in The New York Times.
The house wan’t quite sold out when I saw it on Sunday. But it should have been. And with any luck it will sell out and run well beyond it’s announced closing date of Oct. 18.
Tickets are $55, and every seat in this house is good. But through this Thurday, Sept. 24, you can get seats for $35 by using the discount code TM35SOUL online or over the phone at (212) 353-0303.