“Smash/Hit!” Has Potential But Needs Work As It Premieres At The Black Rep

Ronald L. Conner and Matthew Galbreath whip up the crowd at the Black Rep's "Smash/Hit!" Photo: Stewart Goldstein

Ronald L. Conner and Matthew Galbreath whip up the crowd at the Black Rep’s “Smash/Hit!” Photo: Stewart Goldstein

A world premiere production of a new hip-hop play with music has a shaky start at the Black Rep, but “Smash/Hit!” has a lot going for it- everything just needs to fall into the right place. Steve Broadnax and Michael Bordner have put a lot of their life story into this play and they may have tried to put too much where they should have narrowed their focus.

Two buddies have been trying to break into the big time with their duo, calling themselves Money and Chance and collectively, No Plan B. The play opens with a dream as they imagine themselves wowing a crowd with their best song, “The American Dream.” Then we get hit with the reality as the hot-headed Money gets his girlfriend, Joi pregnant and realizes he must do something in a hurry to keep the money flowing. His decision is to join the Army and he serves time in Iraq. Meanwhile, Chance has moved on his own and is making connections- particularly with a radio promoter known as Good Boy. But on his return, Money finds fault with everything and continues to ruin the duo’s chances at every turn with his quick temper and the resulting post traumatic stress syndrome from his stint overseas. Unfortunately, with plot lines running in every direction and no real resolution, “Smash/Hit!” fails to score with the audience.

Ronald L. Conner, FeliceSkye and Matthew Galbreath share some tense moments in "Smash/Hit!" at the Black Rep. Photo: Steward Goldstein

Ronald L. Conner, FeliceSkye and Matthew Galbreath share some tense moments in “Smash/Hit!” at the Black Rep. Photo: Steward Goldstein

The good news is that Ronald L. Conner as Money and Matthew Galbreath as Chance are simply outstanding. Both as actors and as rappers, they score big. Although I’ve yet to see a play that successfully portrays wartime symptoms such as PTSD, Conner’s performance is superb. And Galbreath really handles some of the difficult decisions in Chance’s life with strength and believability. A real stand-out, FeliceSkye really shines as the beleaguered Joi. Her ups and downs in dealing with Money’s problems and the problems in their relationship really ring true.

Justin Ivan Brown turns in another great performance as the sleazy and enigmatic Good Boy. He truly believes in No Plan B but some of his ulterior motives bring on yet another subplot that makes “Smash/Hit!” a bit too top-heavy. Rounding out the cast is a superb job by D.J. Super Nova perched on a platform above the stage providing music and sound to enhance the performance. Artistic Director of the Black Rep, Ron Himes, has directed with a keen eye to honing in on what is important in this meandering script. It covers a lot of the same material while trying to cover too much material at the same time. Some definite trimming is needed and a more focused center. There also were, at times, a bit of unrehearsed quality about it as we had unintentional gaps until things got back on track.

D.J. Super Nova and Justin Ivan Brown get things moving at 107.5 on the dial during "Smash/Hit!" at the Black Rep. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

D.J. Super Nova and Justin Ivan Brown get things moving at 107.5 on the dial during “Smash/Hit!” at the Black Rep. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

The great Jim Burwinkel set design fits the emphasis as well as the flow of the play very well and David Warfel’s lights are an outstanding complement to the story. Lou Bird’s costumes are right on the money and Robin Weatherall’s sound design is evocative, particularly in the war scenes.

The music is great and well executed by these two likable entertainers. Even some of the dialogue- especially when one or the other is trying to create rap- has a great syncopation that helps move the story along without actual singing. In other words, it’s a lyrical play at times and, as I said, has great potential. Broadnax and Bordner have created some compelling characters and the structure for a great story. In this world premiere performance, I can see great things for “Smash/Hit!” with some hard work and some serious tweaks.

“Smash/Hit!” plays at the Black Rep through May 18th. It’s always great to attend a world premiere and, despite some of the flaws (which they’ll probably work on as the play continues), it’s a great evening of music and outstanding performances. Call the box office at 314-534-3810 or contact the Black Rep at http://www.theblackrep.org for tickets or more information.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: