Imagination Stage brings back its Helen Hayes nominated show, Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth, written by Psalmayene 24. With the title character, Zomo, inspired by a Nigerian folktale, the story follows the young trickster searching to gain power over the other animals. Zomo goes on a journey to acquire three special items for the Sky God in exchange for the power he seeks. But when he meets the owners of the mysterious items, Zomo finds more than he bargained for and begins to question himself.
Raymond O. Caldwell directs this high-energy show, with four actors playing multiple roles. Scenic and Projections Designer Nate Sinnott has created a wide-open stage with levels and a back wall comprised of an abstract arrangement of screens that flash various words, names, and pictures throughout the show to identify places, highlight themes, or simply to add decor.
The production instantly captures the young audience’s attention with catchy, rhythmic beats (reminiscent of Sir Mix-A-Lot) by Nick “tha1da” Hernande, and fluid, funky movement directed by Tiffany Quinn.
Zomo, played by Gary L. Perkins III, beat-boxes his way onto the stage, boombox in hand. Zomo is a proud rabbit who loves to rhyme and groove. But when he is spurned by the other animals, he seeks out the Sky God (Melissa Carter) for help.
But Sky God has problems of her own. The animals of the world are at odds with each other and Sky God sends Zomo on a quest to complete three tasks. He must collect the sneakers from breakdancing Big Fish (Unissa Cruse), the spray paint cans of graffiti artist Wild Cow (Jonathan Atkinson), and the mixer from DJ Leopard’s (Inés Domínguez del Corral) turntables. If Zomo successfully brings these items to Sky God, she will give him power.
Zomo first encounters Big Fish, but soon learns that the shoes he’s after are a treasured gift. Cruse is a master of moves and portrays the talented Big Fish with a cool confidence and joy that is fun and infectious. While Zomo hesitates about taking the sneakers after realizing how much he admires Big Fish, he still decides to distract her with a dance-off. When she literally dances right out of her shoes, Zomo snatches them and takes off.
Atkinson’s Wild Cow is the next to be taken by the tricky rabbit. Zomo finds Cow painting at the National Zoo. He appeals to Cow’s artistic senses and lies that there is a beautiful view from an abandoned goat pen, only to lock him in and steal his paint cans. But again Zomo is conflicted. He has learned how special the cans are to Cow and has even come to like him. Still, he sticks to the plan and collects the second item. Zomo’s last target is Leopard. Domínguez del Corral as Leopard exudes passion for her music, inspiring Zomo as he continues to falter with his task.
Zomo’s regret for betraying his newfound friends weighs on him and forces him to realize that his desire for power is simply a result of being rejected by the other animals. What he really desires is friendship, and appreciation of his individuality and form of expression.
With the help of Sky God, Zomo makes amends and the characters come together with each of their strengths to create something bigger and better than anything they could have done alone.
Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth spells out the ending in the title, but the true story is the journey toward finding comradery. And on the way, kids are exposed to hip hop and culture, the appreciation of sick beats and slick moves instilled into their lives.
Throughout the show, the actors engage the kids with call and response and even invite them to dance from the audience.
Imagination Stage has produced an engaging show with a talented cast that is energizing, fun, and informative. The production is recommended for ages 4 and older, but don’t exclude your tweens. I went with a 9- and an 11-year-old (girl and boy, respectively) and both were dancing in their seats and jiving with the beats. And everyone in the audience was infected with the love of hip-hop.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Creative Team: Raymond O. Caldwell (Director), Tiffany Quinn (Movement Director), Nick Hernandez (Music Director), Nate Sinnott (Scenic/Productions Designer), Madison Booth (Costume Designer), Sarah Tundermann (Lighting Designer), Justin Schmitz (Sound Designer), Tosin Olufalabi (Assistant Sound Designer), Psalmayene 24 (Playwright), Kate Kilbane (Stage Manager), Cristina Maninang Ibarra (Assistant Director), Lydia McCaw (Assistant Stage Manager)