I Have A Crush On Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical
I saw Freedom Riders tonight and I'm in lurve. This docu-musical tackles the subject of the 1961 Freedom Rides, which was a challenge to segregation on public transportation in the South. I feel so lucky to have seen this show, which is a part of the 2017 New York Musical Festival, this early in the game. Every now and again, a show comes along that has the potential to part the skies and let the sunshine come pouring in. Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical is one of them.
Why it's so awesome:
*It's extraordinarily rare that a show's music is this good and this radio ready. I walked out of the theater with the same feeling I had when I saw Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton for the first time: wanting to immediately listen to the cast recording on repeat. This show is what dreams are made of for those of us who have the crazy idea that the music in new musicals should be...good?
*The cast is full of future megastars. From Anthony Chatmon II's young John Lewis (the Congressman!) to ensemble members like Brandon Michael Nase, there was standout after standout up on that stage singing their hearts out.
Photos: Mia Winston
*The Act One closer will make you want to stand up and get on that bus with those Riders. You head into intermission inspired the way you feel after Dear Evan Hansen's "You Will Be Found". I smell a Tony Awards performance!
*The gospel Act Two opener, is a potential landmark moment in modern musical theater. It reminded me of "Seasons of Love" from Rent, but with even more to unpack.
*Whitney White's energetic direction let the songs, and the stars singing them, shine.
*I saw the show with ~50 NYC high school kids. Nothing is more exciting than watching young people of color discover how cool musical theater can be. This is the kind of important mass appeal that way more musical theater composers need to focus on if they want their musicals to even stand a chance at Hamilton-caliber success.
Freedom Riders is as fresh and as exciting as it gets and I have a full-on crush on it. There was hot lava bubbling up on that stage tonight and when it erupts it into a full-scale volcano, you are going to be so glad it did. I highly recommend that you get on that bus now and become a Freedom Rider!
P/S Here's a video of me checking out a rehearsal last week, which includes some song snippets. My Spidey Sense was already tingling!