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Geffen’s Got A Hit – Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole is phenomenal! 


Review: An outrageous amount of exorbitant talent — it’s the best show in town!

Written brilliantly by Colman Domingo & Patricia McGregor the story shows us what must have been the inner-life of Nat King Cole as he trail-blazed a historical path for other minorities that would follow. He was the first African American to have his own variety show. Having to endure the racial hostility from the South is one thing, but living through a bullet being shot through the window of your home, your dog being poisoned, a fire blazing on your front lawn and the bigotry of the homeowners’ association where you live is unimaginable.  And this was not in the South, it was in a neighborhood in liberal Los Angeles. The question remains; how can one be so loved as an artist and not wanted as a person?

In this 90-minute stunning performance, we explore what happened and how Mr. King must have felt during these disturbing and unsettling days.  It is the last night of his Christmastime broadcast. The house lights (in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen) are up as a stagehand approaches center stage calling out to the crew. The audience is now part of the audience and the show begins. Well, almost – Mr. King in his dressing room undergoes some “housecleaning” of sorts. Without giving away too much of the action, suffice it to say, Mr. King sucked up a lot of bullshit. And some little shit was tolerated by him as well. Such as when Betty Hutton looks in the camera and refers to Cole as “the black stallion.”

All the while he maintains a saintly decorum suppressing his struggle to maintain dignity as a man and to save his show from being cancelled. Will Madison Avenue brave the tide and bring national sponsors? Will his friend Peggy Lee show up and perform as she promised? These are the plot points that carry the story. Colman Domingo & Patricia McGregor did a superb job with the book creating tension and leaving us mesmerized as such scenes unfold.

The star of the evening, Dulé Hill captures the performer and person of Nat King Cole – the delicacy of his nature with a keenness that was stunning. “The Christmas Song” sung by Cole every year in America made Christmas, Christmas. And yes, Mr. Hill, you made the right decision by accepting the role because you succeed in evoking the nourishing soul of Mr. Nat “King” Cole.

All the members of the cast were fantastic. Daniel J. Watts (Sammy Davis Jr) is a thunder stealer. He was so good – he plays Sammy Davis Jr better than Sammy Davis Jr. The amount of talent in Mr. Watts is staggering. Most enjoyable is the tap dancing duet with Watts and Hill – shouts and applause by the audience. It was hard not to get enthusiastic. Another highlight was “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter.” Hell, the whole entire show was a highlight!

A huge shout out to Ruby Lewis who gave an outstanding performance as Betty Hutton, Peggy Lee and others. I loved the oozing sensual quality that Gisela Adisa displayed in her role as Eartha Kitt.

Other superb members of the cast include Connor Amacio Matthews (Billy Preston), Bryan Dobson (Producer), Zonya Love (Perlina), Brandon Ruiter (Stage Manager) and tonight’s role of Candy/Others was played by Mary-Pat Green who made us laugh with her comedic skills.

Credit is given to the great direction by Ms. Patricia McGregor who understood and interpreted the piece masterfully.

Writers Domingo & McGregor cleverly use lyrics from songs to transition and execute scenes for the actors. One such brilliance was the way the song “Mona Lisa” was used between Cole and the Producer.  Using the song was a gorgeous interpretation of what was going on in the scene. Music Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations by John McDaniel was energizing.

In honor of Mr. King’s centennial, The House of Representatives on February 13, 2019 issued a proclamation recognizing Nat “King” Cole for being one of the most distinguished and exemplary music recording artists of all time and as a talisman for the civil rights movement. He was also recognized with other artists last year, when the President’s office issued a proclamation declaring June 2018 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.

Don’t run to see this – fly to see this story about one of music’s royalty and soar for an evening of unforgettable greatness

Runs through March 17, 2019 (although I bet there will be an extension).

For more information and tickets.

This performance was on February 14, 2019.

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