‘A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn’ sparks joy at Anacostia Playhouse

The show consists of popular R&B songs that featured Aframerican performers and is all about having a good time in a world full of dark, cold nights.

“Is everybody having a good time?” — one of the performers at The Dew Drop Inn

A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn sparks joy. This new show at The Anacostia Playhouse is all about having a good time in a world full of dark, cold nights. And unless you are the embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge, a good time is exactly what you will have. There is singing, dancing, and broad, silly, and obvious jokes on the naughty side of things. And these people dance and sing (and clown around) as if their very lives depend upon it.

For this event, the Anacostia Playhouse is set up as a nightclub: tables, bar, stage, and a huge tip jar or kitty. The show is all music and dancing with well-executed patter between songs. There is a premise, but there is no book. We don’t need one. In this new-normal pandemic era, the title of the show says it all: we are being invited to enter into this place in order to remind ourselves of our capacity, need, and responsibility to summon joy. While there may be many places that are called The Dew Drop Inn, it’s better to think of the establishment on stage as a product of imagination and memory. It’s a place that lives inside all of us that we sometimes have to be reminded exists. As Lena Horne’s Glinda the Good seductively and comfortingly reminds us in the movie The Wiz: “Home is a place we all have to find, child.” The Dew Drop Inn is just such a welcoming, purring, seductive place.

Pearl Bonnetemp (Yvette Spears) sings the blues in ‘A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn.’ Photo by Bill Lee.

Anyone will find something in this show to delight. It’s just so much fun. At the same time, some Aframericans may experience A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn differently than people who are not from this culture. That’s because the show consists of popular songs (or arrangements of songs) from the rhythm and blues (R&B) catalog that featured Aframerican performers. These songs documented the social progress of Aframericans’ access to American society as accurately as any poll. They also document the frustration and consolation from encountering obstacles to that social progress. When I hear these songs, I have memories of Martin Luther King, civil rights, “race” records (recordings that were made and marketed to the non-white market), and my mother dancing and laughing in front of the Christmas tree.

The voices of the women — the divas in this show — are paramount. Whether singing about the torch they carry for a man or wielding a baseball bat to give the woman pursuing her man second thoughts, these divas are what we are dazzled by. They carry the show and ultimately they are the reason we come to see it. Together they cover the vocal range from contralto-tenor to soprano. And they each have powerhouse voices that threaten to blow the walls down. Ayanna Hardy did justice to the torch song “Givin’ Up,” Sherice Payne wielded the classy woman-whose-man-done-her-wrong song “Guess Who I Saw Today” with restrained and focused bitterness. Yvette Spears’s “Santa Baby” was suitably and blithely mercenary.

The Dew Drop Inn performers get the crowd riled up with ‘You Got the Right Key, But the Wrong Keyhole’ in ‘A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn.’ Photo by Bill Lee.

The men are no slackers either. They give the audience that smoldering, restrained classiness of certain Black gentlemen in the post-WWII era. And if they don’t do any damage to the walls, their voices smoothly loosen whatever restraints a person might think about retaining. Robert E. Person singing “Messin’ Around the Blues” gave us a portrait of male sensitivity and suffering. Marcel Worrell Miler handled “It’s Just a Matter of Time” like a man in need of consolation while Fashad Wilson Tyler delivered the Aframerican romantic holiday anthem “Merry Christmas, Baby” with the patience and knowing determination of a reliable and confident lover.

Master of Ceremonies Percy Calhoun (Fashad Tyler) introduces the Dew Drop Inn performers in ‘A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn.’ Photo by Bill Lee.

The women’s-only set features such songs as “Your Husband Is Cheating on Us” and “C.C. Rider.” The men’s-only set features a hysterical Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles vaudeville routine wherein two men hold a conversation in which subjects and objects and sometimes verbs are often left out, yet each understands the other perfectly. The male cohort also delights in delivering the classics “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “60 Minute Man,” and “Caldonia.”

Shug (Sherice Payne Williams) makes sure ‘Ernestine’ — and everyone — leaves her man alone in ‘A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn.’ Photo by Bill Lee.

If you are of a certain age, some other songs on the program that may take you back include “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Ernestine,” “Right Key, Wrong Keyhole,” and ”Today I Sing the Blues.”

Director Stephawn Stephens has taken care that the short time we have with his troupe is never anything short of entertaining and that it is always worth the price of admission.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes without intermission.

A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn plays through January 9, 2022, at Anacostia Playhouse, 2020 Shannon Place SE, Washington, DC. Tickets ($50 regular, $40 senior and East of the River) are available online.

UPDATE: Anacostia Playhouse announces that its production of A Snowy Nite at the Dew Drop Inn—originally scheduled to run through January 9, 2022—will close as of December 22, 2021.

“The Anacostia Playhouse is committed to keeping our performers, staff, and audiences safe,” said Artistic Director Stephawn Stevens. “In light of the increasing positive COVID-19 cases in the region, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors. We have loved bringing the Dew Drop Inn back to life this season and look forward to welcoming audiences back to the Playhouse in 2022.”

All tickets for impacted shows will be fully refunded. Staff members are currently reaching out to affected ticket holders. Contact the box office at info@anacostiaplayhouse.com if you have any questions.

About Anacostia Playhouse
Founded in 2012, the Anacostia Playhouse (Playhouse) is a dedicated arts center located in the Anacostia Historic District of Washington, DC. The Playhouse’s mission is to bring arts performances, exhibits, and instruction to the Anacostia community, and to provide a venue for local artists to perform and display their work. For more information about Anacostia Playhouse, visit anacostiaplayhouse.com/.

COVID Safety: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test within 48 hours of the performance will be required for attendance. See more details about this policy here.

Gayzelle: Ayanna Hardy
Li’l Johnny: Marcel Miller
Sunshine Shug: Sherice Payne
Buster Broadnax: Robert Person
Pearl Bon Temp: Yvette Spears
Mr. Percy Calhoun: Fashad Tyler

Director: Stephawn Stephens
Music Director, Piano Man: William Knowles
Bass: Mark Z Saltman
Trumpet: Michael Fitzhugh
Lighting Design: John D. Alexander
Set Design: Megan Holden
Costume Design: Alison Johnson
Choreography: Shawna Williams
Stage Manager: A. Freeman
Master Carpenter: Matty Griffith
Technical Director: Dori Lichter
Sound Engineers: Daniel Cioffi, JJ Nichols
Photography: Manaf Azam

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