Mel Johnson Jr., Carolyn Griffin, and Maurice Hines in MetroStage lobby following a performance of "Josephine Tonight."
It isn’t often that an out-of-town director has the opportunity to return to a show in a regional theatre and see how it has grown, evolved, and progressed since opening night. But Maurice Hines, director and choreographer of MetroStage’s world premiere production of "Josephine Tonight" did just that recently. He returned to Alexandria with his associate director Mel Johnson Jr. to surprise the cast and see what his work looked like four weeks later. One of the exciting things about live theatre is that it is going to be slightly different every night. Actors can grow in their roles, further understand and develop their characters, and simply inhabit the stage with their fellow actors more comfortably over time.
Hines’ immediate response to seeing the show again was that it was better than ever and that he was so proud to be a part of it. When asked what his favorite moment was, he immediately responded “Pretty Is,” the hauntingly poignant ballad that Aisha de Haas sings as Bertha Smith, a vaudeville star lamenting the fact that “pretty” “slowly slips away.” It is a breathtakingly beautiful song sung by an exceptional artist whose voice was described by one critic as “a rich blend of powerhouse gospel, blues and red-hot sizzle.”
Another inspired moment in the show is when two producers in their bold plaid vaudeville suits watch a young Josephine Baker audition and declare in a song that she is “Too Young , Too Black and Too Thin.” Hines says that he was totally inspired by the combination of the music and the performers, in this case the versatile James T. Lane and James Alexander, both of whom play multiple roles throughout the play. He loves to stage with humor and when he combines his famous choreography with a great song, scene and actors, it is a truly memorable moment on the stage.
And finally, our great friend and colleague Maurice Hines says he was inspired by the environment and that MetroStage was the best environment for him as he shared his vision for this new musical with the book and lyrics writer Sherman Yellen and with our actors and ultimately with our lucky audiences who are cheering every performance for the gift he has given them.
(Josephine Tonight must close March 18. There are still tickets available for certain performances. Call 703-548-9044 to reserve).