The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin got a love letter from The New York Times' Ben Brantley, but so far the new tuner by triple-threat Kirsten Childs has only announced an extension to July 16 at Playwrights Horizons.
LaChanze, the actress whose vocal fireworks ignited Once On This Island, stars in the title role of Bubbly Black Girl, the most talked-about musical you've never heard. Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan gave composer lyricist-librettist Childs' semi-autobiographical musical its world premiere after it earned the prestigious Jonathan Larson Foundation Award, the Edward Kleban Award for lyrics and The Richard Rodgers Production and Development Awards.
Previews began May 26, it opened June 20 and was to continue to July 9. Less powerful papers than The Times gave the show by fledgling Childs mixed reviews. Associate producer Wind Dancer Theatre is said to be mulling options for the future of the promising Bubbly.
Wilfredo Medina directs and A.C. Ciulla choreographs the musical memoir that follows the journey of Viveca "Bubbly" Stanton, who struggles with conflicting messages about gender, race and relationships between the 1960s and the 1990s. With a hope to become the greatest dancer in the world, she travels to New York City where she meets a Fosse-like director who gives her work as she continues to question ideas of race, image and identity.
The cast includes Jerry Dixon (Once On This Island), Darius de Haas (Rent, Marie Christine), Jonathan Dokuchitz (The Who's Tommy), Felicia Finley (The Life, Manhattan Theatre Club's The Wild Party), Cheryl Alexander (Dreamgirls, Once On This Island), Duane Boutte (Carousel), Josh Tower (Ragtime), Robert Jason Jackson (Off-Broadway's Running Man), Natalie Venetia Belcon (And the World Goes 'Round), Angel Desai (Stop Kiss), Debra M. Walton (Paper Mill Playhouse's Dreamgirls) and Myiia Watson-Davis (in her New York debut).
The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin was partially developed during the 1998 National Music Theater Conference at the O'Neill Theater Center and is the winner of a 1999 Richard Rodgers Development Award and a 2000 Richard Rodgers Production Award, administered by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Playwrights staging is the recipient of a 1999 Rockefeller Foundation Multi-Arts Production Fund Grant.
Kirsten Childs is an alumna of New York University's Musical Theater Playwriting Program. As a performer, Childs acted with Chita Rivera in Chicago and performed on Broadway in Dancin', Jerry's Girls and Sweet Charity.
Choreographer A.C. Ciulla received Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle nominations for his work on the musical Footloose. His work has been seen in concerts, commercials and music videos.
Director Wilfredo Medina directed The Bubbly Black Girl since its first incarnation. He was co-artistic director of The Family Life Theatre and received an Emmy Award and nominations for his direction of television specials for ABC and PBS.
Tickets are $47.50. Playwrights Horizons is at 416 W. 42nd St. For ticket information, call (212) 279-4200 or try the Playwrights Horizons web site at http://www.playwrightshorizons.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson