The bucket drummers who made such a racket hitting plastic tubs and metal pots and pans in Broadway's Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk are hoping for another hit with Keep Bangin', their new percussion show opening Sept. 23 in Greenwich Village.
Tap wunderkind Savion Glover (Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) co-directs Jared "Choclatt" Crawford and a cast of urban percussionists in the new show, which began performances August 31 at the Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street. The troupe was going to start Aug. 24, but a schedule conflict with conceiver-creator Crawford (a one-time street performer who landed big with Noise/Funk) prevented that; he was drumming for pop singer Lauryn Hill.
In Keep Bangin', featuring Noise/Funk's Larry Wright, players beat on whatever surface they can think of --- drums, bongos, cowbells, pots and pans and, of course, buckets. Tributes to percussion masters Tito Puente, Max Roach and Buddy Rich are part of the experience.
Is Keep Bangin' a musical?
"It's a very musical show, with original music, plus a tribute to Al Green," producer Romeo Joven told Playbill On-Line. "It's so diverse, it takes you on a journey of different styles of music, from jazz to hip hop and everything in between." But percussion is the thing: "It's a history of percussion, and we travel to different regions -- reggae, we have Latin, Africa, up to the present," Joven said.
The show had a tryout in fall 1998 at the Baggott Inn, a tiny New York City lounge. Joven said three-quarters of the material in Keep Bangin' in new since then. He said the entire piece breathes and moves more freely in the 248-seat Players Theatre.
"It's changed a great deal since last fall," Joven said. "It's a bigger production, we have choreographed numbers. The space was so small at the Baggott that we were limited."
Joven had produced 1996 benefits in which Glover and Crawford appeared, and had discussed the possibility of new percussion revue with the performers. A handful of pieces were put together and performed at New York University and Columbia University in 1997, and the seedling show continued to develop over the next year (becoming a sapling at the Baggott in 1998). Both Glover and Crawford, however, were tied up with the smash Broadway tap-percussion hit, Noise/Funk or with other dates.
When Noise/Funk closed in early 1999, Joven and the artists looked ahead to summer 1999, when their schedules could dovetail.
Crawford began playing drums in church and became a street performer with Wright. For George C. Wolfe's Broadway percussion-and-movement musical, Noise/Funk, which began at The Public Theater, Crawford choreographed all of the on stage percussions.
The Keep Bangin' company also includes Darrell Dove Jr. (Noise/Funk, Boston's "Dance Umbrella" and "Jazz Tap/Hip Hop"), David Dove (on keyboards), Dennis J. Dove (Noise/Funk), Mark Durham (Noise/Funk tour), Raymond Alexander King (original cast, Noise/Funk), Christopher Little, Travius Sharpe (on drums), Darryl Warner (on bass) and Wright (Noise/Funk).
Designers are Andrew Sherman and Joe Williams (sound), Donna Holland (costume) and Shelly Sabel (scenic and lighting).
Musical direction is by Lafayette Harris Jr., associate conductor and keyboardist for Broadway's Noise/Funk.
The new Off-Broadway run is produced by Keep Bangin' Entertainment, Maniactin Productions, Inc., Joven and Ian Rand.
For ($20-$40) ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By Kenneth Jones