Monday, May 10, 2021

556. UHURUH. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Walterine Ross, Samaki Zuri, David Gardner, Pamela Sweden, Raymond Wade, Danny Duncan. (Photo: Bert Duncan.)
UHURUH [Musical Revue/Race] B/M/LY/D/CH: Danny Duncan; C: Richmond Curry; L: Kueleza Furaha; P: Franklin Fried and Bert Wanier i/a/w City Center of Music and Drama, Inc.; T: City Center Downstairs (OB); 3/20/72-3/25/72 (8)

Uhuruh, performed in the intimate City Center Downstairs space, was an import from San Francisco completely crafted by Danny Duncan, who also performed in the show. The themes of the songs and sketches were mainly racial in character.

Martin Washburn thought them subtle, nonmilitant, and excellently done. Clive Barnes, however, was distressed by the “the relentless ;pace . . . , [the] strident tone and [the] cabaret-style vibrations,” all of which “eventually drift toward the monotonous.”

The overriding subject of Black militancy versus Negro complacency was expressed through numbers dealing with marijuana, welfare, the Black bourgeoisie, and Black Power, One routine was a courtroom debate between Mr. Black and Mr. Negro, pitting the former's revolutionary aims against the latter's gradualism. A plea on behalf of activist Angela Davis was one of the stronger moments. 

"Mr. Dnncan himself, with an enormous Afro haircut that looks like an enormous mushroom, is an attractive performer with a good voice and a fine way with a ballad. He is also a very able dancer," as were the other dozen performers, said Barnes. 

Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.

Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on by clicking here.

Next up: Unlikely Heroes: Three Philip Roth Stories.