The Big Bad Musical, The Native Caribbean Foundation’s “howling courtroom comedy” is a guilty-as-charged howling good time. I was fortunate enough to catch the Matinée show on Wednesday, February 1st at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.
I sat among a packed theatre of primarily primary school students and a number of their parents and teachers, captivated, as a tremendously talented cast of youngsters played out an alternative re-telling of the story of the infamous fairy tale villain, the Big Bad Wolf. The play follows the proceedings of a courtroom hearing in which the Wolf is tried for his crimes against the other fairy tale characters, a colourful cast of accusers including the likes of Red Riding Hood, the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf and the Three Little Pigs.
When the curtains parted to reveal the stage at the start of the play, a nice setup of leaf covered wooden benches that looked like they were made with fresh forest materials. However, the projected backdrop of the enchanted forest was the thing that drew murmurs of praise from the audience as the stage came into view. The moving images of the trees in the background really added a level of enchantment to the whole affair.
The cast was wonderful, however there was a consistent technical problem with more than half of the actors’ mics. It was a real misfortune because from the little that was audible from the actors without consistent mic support, it was clear that they had the ability and talent of their peers who we could hear clearly. Bill Woodcutter, for example (played by Theron Frame), exhibited such a promising presence on the stage that I was very much looking forward to his solo number. When his moment came around and I could barely hear a word of it, I was disappointed. Nonetheless, The sound issues did not derail my enjoyment of the play all that much.
All of the musical numbers in the play, the timing of song and exciting choreography, were executed with surprising precision and grace for such a young troupe of actors. The opening number set the bar and the rest lived up to the quality. I would be remiss not to mention the chorus of background singers, who provided an aurally sweet backing of support for the leads. The wolf’s number was particularly enjoyable. Devon De Bourgh did well to capture the dark menace of the predatory wolf while simultaneously evincing the piteous persona of a man who just wants some compassion and understanding. His Wolfettes (played by Maria Sookdar, Josie Hoyte and Jaida-Sarah Joseph) were also delightful as they shadowed Mr. Wolf with some very tight and entertaining choreography.
Sherisse Latchman playing the persecuting lawyer, Fairy Godmother, was also splendid in her role. She captured the arrogant and all-business persona of her character and delivered her lines with panache. The first “shut up” that she shot at the reporter was done with such well timing and at the perfect pitch to become one of my favourite humourous moments.
On comedic moments, the character who delivered most of my favourites was the Wise Old Man played pitch-perfectly by Jadon Dowrich-Carrera. The repetition of the swearing over the courtroom holy book – Hans Christian Anderson’s Collection nonetheless – was made fresh and entertaining every time thanks to his well-timed delivery.
The play was packed with talented actors who embodied their characters and portrayed them with flair like; a sassy, bratty turn from Keya John as Little Red Riding Hood; Jahia Asson as the graciously haughty and cruel Evil Stepmother; and Ealisa Espinoza in the role of the reporter Sydney Grimm- who had a stirring closing song that she delivered with such vocal power and suave that it was one of those “that voice is coming from that tiny person?” scenarios.
Of course, the rich and brilliant source material by Alec Strum and Bill Francoeur gave the director and cast plenty to play with and they all played their hearts out admirably. The story of a stereotyped wolf who has been typecast as a criminal for his entire life seems timely in this period of unprecedented criminal activity on our country. At a time when people will be looking for easy faces to blame for the troubled times, it seems relevant to expose an auditorium full of children to the idea of compassion and empathy. The play raises questions of nature versus nurture; are people who hail from a certain area in Trinidad or wear a certain kind of clothes (a bandana around their face, for instance) automatically to be considered criminals without the fair chance of telling their story?
Big Bad Musical presents us with the fact that “nothing is as it seems” and that idiom works both ways, as we see by the end of the play. It was a delightful performance all round and I hope that the next time I get to see this group of talented young people in action, there aren’t any irksome technical difficulties to dampen the experience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, Shazim Khan here! I’m a student of literature at UWI, which happened as a result of a long time fascination with words in all their various forms and mediums. I also have a deep affinity for the arts on the whole, especially music of all genres – I’m an amateur guitarist.
I’ve recently been introduced to the fascinating world of theatre. The spellbinding magic that can be so expertly conjured on stage has captivated me and inspired a desire to learn and experience as much as possible of this timeless and magnificent craft.