The Asante Children's Theatre of Indianapolis is closing its 26th season with GENIUS to the beat of SOUL, a new musical the company has created, with book and lyrics by founder and artistic director Deborah Asante and musical composition by Richard Trotman. Song and dance are heavily featured in the show, and ACT alumnus Jeffrey Page was recruited for the direction and choreography. The Indianapolis native is both a Broadway performer and choreographer, who won an MTV Music Award for choreography in Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)."
The story is loosely based around Anika (Kathryn Council), a teenager who is facing life challenges and who isn't confident in herself to make the right choices. Unfortunately, on opening night, major microphone issues made the dialogue almost impossible to hear—to the point that the plot was hard to follow. In addition, the on-stage band often drowned out the actors. Fortunately, for the cast of 23 youth and adults, the focus is on the music and dance. Page's work is nothing short of genius itself. The choreography is powerful and emotionally charged, as is Asante and Trotman's musical work. The cast executes each number with excellence, every dancer reaching maximum potential. All of the performances reach professional-level expectations. Most memorable is the song "I's A Man," about slaves declaring their humanity, that requires perfectly synchronous movements. Amazing.
Geoffrey Ehrendreich uses the Indiana Repertory Theatre's mainstage to create a simple, airy, elegant backdrop out of yards and yards of hanging fabric. The lighting, however, was a bit thick with color—the best lighting is the kind you don't even notice because it blends into the show so well.
Note that the show is PG-13, which means it's probably not a good match for small children.
This is a masterful theatrical piece. With more workshopping, it could easily make its way to Broadway.
Through June 19, tickets.irtlive.com,
$12, Indiana Repertory Theatre,
140 W. Washington St.