Think “Double, double, toil and trouble,” meets Tina Turner, Nina Symone and other divas, and that’s what you get in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Macbeth in Stride,” which runs until Oct. 21. Starring multi-hyphenate artist Whitney White, “Macbeth in Stride” musically examines Shakespeare’s famous play, explores the struggle of Lady Macbeth and reimagines the narrative through the lens of a Black woman seeking power and respect, in a world that questions, and even ignores, her value.
Chelsea Lee Williams, Steven Cuevas, Stacey Sargeant, Ximone Rose and Whitney White in ‘Macbeth in Stride,” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Northwest D.C. (Courtesy of Teresa Wood)
“You have just witnessed history here. This is a new musical by a phenomenal actor, composer, singer, director, writer, maker, with endless abundant talent that you all just witnessed Whitney White,” said LeeAnét Noble, director of Equity and Belonging at Shakespeare Theatre Company. “And if you don’t know, now you will know, that not only did Whitney White bless us with The Amen Corner a few years back, but she is also part of our artistic team as our associate director here at Shakespeare Theatre Company, so this is a homecoming.”
White also directed Jocelyn Bioh’s “Jaja’s African Hair Braiding,” which recently premiered on Broadway to rave reviews.
Directed by Tyler Dobrowsky and Taibi Magar, “Macbeth in Stride,” shows White, the play’s creator and co-orchestrator, on stage starring as Woman, who is exploring the character of Lady Macbeth by singing, dancing and playing piano. She’s supported by the Witches, played by Stacey Sargeant, Ximone Rose and Chelsea Lee Williams, who sing, dance, play tambourines and – as in the Bard’s 1623 play – warn the leading lady of what’s to come, while also participating in some banter along the way. There’s also the accordion playing and crooning Charlie Thurston, who plays the role of Man and explores the character of Macbeth.
The artists dance and prance across the stage with choreography by Raja Feather Kelly, featuring moves that pay homage to divas such as Turner performing “Proud Mary.” While the dancing (and at times vocals) could have been performed a bit more “full out,” during the premiere show, the moves and tunes also allowed for the audience to feel part of the action and encouraged participation to clap and sing along.
Featuring a rock ‘n’ roll revue style set by Daniel Soule, flashy, fun costumes by Qween Jean, and colorful, creative lighting design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, the show’s technical elements not only add to the narrative, but bring it to life in a way that they become part of the storytelling – almost as if the costumes, lighting, and set are characters themselves. Co-orchetrator, conductor and keyboardist Steve Cuevas and the band are outstanding and not only sound good and support the tale, but they even interact with the cast and become part of the action.
Overall, the performances were solid, the tale was thought-provoking, and the show was engaging — encouraging crowd interaction throughout the production.
While “Macbeth,” was originally written during a time when women, and certainly not Black women, could perform, “Macbeth in Stride,” challenges some of the ideals, themes, interactions and outcomes in the Bard’s classic tale, which explores greed, desire, love, power and partnership.
Whitney White, Chelsea Lee Williams, Charlie Thurston and Ximone Rose in ‘Macbeth in Stride,” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Northwest D.C. (Courtesy of Teresa Wood)
The production at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Klein Theatre is part of the larger collaboration with various arts institutions.
“[To] our partners at Philadelphia Theatre Company as well as Brooklyn Academy of Music, this would not be possible without this conglomerate of amazing theaters coming together for this production,” Noble said during a celebratory speech during the premiere. “We are thankful to have this production of ‘Macbeth in Stride’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company, and we can’t wait for the rest of the DMV to witness this production.”
“Spread the word,” Noble added.
Before continuing the opening night celebration, White thanked the full house in the lobby of the Klein Theatre. Providing ambiance for the show, the lobby featured a large installation of album covers that included musical stars; another area had a photo backdrop for “Macbeth in Stride.”
“It’s amazing to have an opening night like this. This is very rare in the world we live in to be gathered like this,” White said. “It’s a dream project. Thank you to the actors and the crew, and musicians. I cannot believe that we did this.”
Source: Washington Informer