“The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin

This review aired on KBAQ April 15, 2013


Black Theatre Troupe
Phoenix, AZ

The Black Theatre Troupe’s new production, “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin,” is a prime example of a theater company struggling to find viable new plays and musicals.

The show is a terrible, self-serving musical.  Author Kirsten Childs tells about her agonizing climb to become a Broadway musical theater performer and to accept her Black heritage.  It is lifeless because the girl the musical portrays, Viveca Stanton or Bubbly, and her tribulations to become a performer, are uninteresting.  The play is nothing more than the author’s giant ego trip.

Although the show runs a scant 90 minutes without intermission, I couldn’t help but check my watch every few minutes after less than a half hour of the dull story had transpired.  Audiences won’t care about the woman’s rejection of being Black because it makes no sense as explained in the play.  An entire scene has Bubbly battle between her white and her Black dolls as she relates her mindless racial debate without a bit of compassion.  And Childs’ music is awful and her lyrics are repetitious.  The piece played an unsuccessful off-Broadway run and no doubt left New Yorkers wondering why they spent good money to sit through the badly written tale.

But one must say that David J. Hemphill stages the piece as well as the awful material allows, choreographer Laurie Trygg creates some breezy dances, and a stalwart cast performs the characters as if they are presenting a Shakespearean masterwork.  The cast sings Childs’ inane songs with style, flourish, and gusto as if these were songs audiences might care about.  It’s a shame that these strong resources are so wasted on this awful piece.

Kenyata Christina White overflows with energy and zest in the title role as she sings and dances with exuberant sparkle.  The ensemble essays multiple roles as best as the material allows and the jazzy five-person band plays as if they are performing stellar songs.

The Black Theatre Troupe is battling several obstacles.  BTT’s new East Washington Street theater is difficult to find.  Parking is at a private lot down the street where audiences no doubt wonder if cars might be towed away.  And the shows BTT has picked so far for its new theater have not resulted in viable theater for audiences.  BTT needs to present well produced productions of interesting plays.

“The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” continues through April 21.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Grade: F