"Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk" has been successful not because of its implication of dance, but because of its entertaining artistry that redefines what audiences come to the theater to witness. It shows us once again why dance is so important in the theater; it is a no-holds-barred presentation of all that has the beat.
"'Da Beat," as it is commonly referred to in the production, is the basis for the show's plot. The musical presents the history of 'da Beat as the rhythm of the dance. 'Da Beat is followed from early slavery days of the Unites States up through the current Hip Hop/Rap era of our current decade. We are allowed to witness not only the development and evolution of 'da Beat, but also a slight glimpse into a partial history of Black America. 'Da Beat is also the main character of the show, played on Broadway by Savion Glover himself.
The show is not all dance however. There is one solo vocalist who carries the singing aspect of the production. 'Da Voice, as she is referred. Her gospel-like vocal quality takes one to the confines of a Baptist African-American church service. Her voice is a treasure from a supreme being, and she bestows it upon the show like a blessing. She is the only actual singer in the show and she provides most of the background vocalizing as well. Her amazing talent is alone worth the price of admission.
"Noise/Funk" is structured into 26 musical numbers. Each number has a theme and presents a way in which 'da Beat is passed on from generation to generation. "Slave Ships," one of the show's first numbers, illustrates the way in which the 'da Beat began on a slave ship, making its way from Africa to the Unites States. When the slaves were denied use of drums by their slave drivers, they carried 'da Beat in their hearts and voices, and later applied it in their dancing.
One emotional number, "The Lynching Blues," tells of a long-forgotten incident in American history when 50 African-Americans were slain in 1916 Georgia. The dancing sequence is raw and evokes a sad atmosphere of the brutality and inhumane treatment that occupied the early part of this century.
A highlight of the production is undoubtedly "The Panhandlers," a scene in which the show's two drummers emerge wearing costumes composed of different-sized pots and pans. Using two drumsticks apiece, each drummer whips out rhythm and song on a framework of metal as well as each other, providing one of the many showstopping numbers that the musical has to offer.
The hard-lined complexity of the Blue Collar Working America is showcased in "Industrialization," a scene in which four dancers and two percussionists develop a factory machine using nothing but themselves, a steel framework and chains. Complete with steam and lighting effects, this number is definitely a highlight of the play.
The number "Green, Chaney, Buster, Slyde," is a scene in which the history of tap dancing is delivered by illustrating the styles that each of these dancers contributed to the world. A performer dances in front of a set of three mirrors that face the audience under a single spotlight that shines from overhead.
The transfer of tap dancing into the world of hip-hop seemed a strange and frightening possibility, but after witnessing the show's final number, audience members experienced what is probably some of the best dancing to be featured onstage in quite some time. Transferring 'da Beat from stage to audience probably was not Wolfe's and Glover's original intentions. When middle-aged to elderly women are found dancing upon their exit from the theater, it can be assured that one has experienced a quality display of talent and entertainment.
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