Review: ‘Love Jones: The Musical’ at The National Theatre

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Nearly 20 years after the cult classic, romantic comedy Love Jones made its big screen release, a celebratory musical reinterpretation takes stage at the National Theatre, showcasing award-winning R&B/soul singers Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Marsha Ambrosius, Raheem DeVaughn, Dave Hollister, and pioneering rapper MC Lyte.

Musiq Soulchild and Jackie Michaels. Photo by Montez Miller.
Musiq Soulchild and Jackie Michaels. Photo by Montez Miller.

Adapted by Timothy Allen Smith and directed by Zadia Ife, with Theodore Witcher, the film’s writer and director, serving as consulting producer, Love Jones: The Musical pays homage to the original storyline which charts two star-crossed Chicago singles:  an up and coming writer/poet Darius Lovehall (compellingly portrayed by theater veteran Tony Grant), and an aspiring photographer Nina Mosley (alluringly portrayed by R & B sensation Chrisette Michele) who meet at a nightclub, rapidly spark a connection and circumnavigate their way through various challenges to more completely unite.

Though the plot is fairly predictable, Grant’s Darius and Michele’s Nina have great chemistry that is palpable and engaging to behold.  Likewise, Nina’s ever vocal and financially-challenged best friend, Josie (Angie Fisher), Nina’s former fiancé, Marvin (Chaz Lamar Shepherd), and Darius’ topsy-turvy counseling couple Savon and Troy (Musiq Soulchild and Jackie Michaels) convincingly embodied their respective characters, enlivening sporadic scenes with uproarious humor and grit.

The core treat of the show, however, are the dynamic vocal exhibitions that are featured throughout the evening from some of R&B’s most distinguished artists. More than 27 songs are intermittently coalesced in the musical, including Devaughn (Hollywood)’s vibrant performance of “I Don’t Care”, as well as Hollister’s soulful rendering of “Before I Let Go” and Musiq Soulchild’s expressive delivery of “I Do.”

Featuring an all-star cast, the 31-city, nationally touring production reinvents the original timeless storyline of love, heartbreak and starting over in a pop-up, concert-style setting with a modern makeover, highlighting a medley of chart-topping tracks and fan favorite songs that fueled the 90’s, along with some originals hits, from some of R&B’s biggest names.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.

Love Jones: The Musical plays through November 21, 2016, at National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, in Washington, DC.  For tickets, visit the National Theatre Box Office, call (800) 514-3849, or purchase them online.

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