What defines parenthood? Are children always a gift? The adoption-themed Hip Hop musical Not My Baby by Alexandria, Virginia-based playwright Jason A. Ellis, explores those questions and more. With music and lyrics by Ellis, Not My Baby is a pleasing potpourri of dance, music, drama and comedy performed with excellence.
Not My Baby is the sixth in a series of socially conscious musicals written by Ellis, the others being The Berg Diaries, Real Cuts, Promises, Senior Moments and U-Street. Not My Baby examines the challenges of adoption from several different angles: teenaged parents, foster home kids, an infertile couple, and mixed-race adoption. The show, which includes six dance numbers, uses a variety of musical styles, from dance/pop to R&B. Choreographers Ellis, Celena Noel, Eboni Jones, and Virginia Raye ensured that those dance pieces popped.
The show featured well-crafted performances by U-Street veteran Terry Spann (who directed last year’s Radio Golf), who played the officious Pastor Joe; Darnell Eaton, who played the hateable Emmanuel; Mary Ayala-Bush, who played adoptive mother Ruby; and Sarah Infante and Mia Amado who played adopted kids Nicole and Dominique respectively.
The opening number, “I’m a Dove” by 7th-grade soloist Jamir Miller, who played adoptee Craig, helped put the show on good footing. From there, Ellis’ solo in “Destiny” was fantastic. Theodore Sapp (who acted in last year’s U-Street and Dreamgirls) featured his crooner skills in his solo “First Date”. U-Street veteran Tamieka Jones (who has performed background vocals for Bruce Springsteen), was excellent in both her role as adoptee Wednesday and in her solo in “Glad You’re Mine.” Jackie Skinner, who played want-to-be mom Keeva, was sultry and satisfying in “Satisfy Me.”
The Ensemble’s rousing gospel number “Daddy Knows Best” opened the second act, and Ellis soloed again in “Especially Now.”. Raye (who once performed background vocals for singer Diana Ross at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts) wonderfully played TaSchica, whose life was seriously affected by adoption drama. Raye wonderfully sang the number “Close To You.”
Nyeta Videl’s character, June had a vast emotional journey, which Videl portrayed to perfection. Her solo of “One Reason” was an emotional cry from a lovelorn woman. Tamieka Jones and Ellis teamed up for the energetic “Together.”
Ellis and Chaba Josa’s set design effectively evoked several domestic settings and even a hospital waiting room. Background Vocalists Terrance McLeod, Dwight Tindall, Rashad Roberts, Bianca Moore, Sheron Nelson and Michelle Hogan provided a lush lyrical background to several of the numbers. All of the songs were performed at a top notch level thanks to Vocal Coaches Theron Johnson, McLeod and Hogan. Not My Baby’s song-and-dance numbers and magnificent cast will leave audiences young and old moved and entertained.
Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Not My Baby plays through March 25, 2017, at Momentum Collective at the Richard Kauffman Auditorium at The Lee Center – 1108 Jefferson Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 640-4980 or purchase them online.
NOTE: Part of the proceeds from this production will help support a variety of programming initiatives for youth in the Alexandria City Public Schools’ Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Program that is operated in conjunction with ARHA (Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority).