Produced by MetroStage
Revisited by Debbie Minter Jackson
There’s always a bit of trepidation when a key cast member steps into a successful show. Audiences wonder how the show will be affected, may have concerns about different interpretations, altering how it’s “supposed” to be. In the case of Jackie Richardson who replaced the “irreplaceable” Earnestine Jackson in Cookin’ at the Cookery, the prep work has already been done because she has already performed the role with the irrepressible Janice Lorraine in Vancouver. While this is a reprise of sorts for them, the change for us is a fresh new experience to be cherished the second time around.
Just when you didn’t think the production could get any better, here comes Richardson who shakes it up with her own mighty gifts, talents and interpretation to the role-and we are all the better for it. If you didn’t catch this stellar production earlier in the run, don’t let it slip away. It is just as much fun the second time around, and Richardson is a major reason why. Her voice and stage presence will blow you away.
Richardson has a particularly effective musical sense that goes beyond belting out the notes. Her whole body seems to breathe the musical tones, and her voice crests and flows with unbelievable crescendo effect. She’s got a hefty bearing that contributes to her no-nonsense stance packaged in a charm-your-socks-off, walloping delivery. Yes, she’s got all the fun-loving facial expressions to relay the message, but there’s something more, a warm accessibility and down-home appeal that makes her rather irresistible. When she refers to the audience lovingly as “children,” she envelops us all as part of the precious few who were fortunate enough to catch Alberta Hunter at the Cookery in New York in Ms Hunter’s unbelievable return-at 82 years old!!
The excellent script by Marion J. Caffey tenderly portrays her life passages and Richardson strikes a chord of believability as the aging songstress. Not that her age keeps her from juicing up her raunchy and spicy delivery as evidenced in her twinkle-eyed rendition of ‘Handy Man’. She heated up the seats and brought down the house with that one. Her strong theatrical presence gives her a special connection with the audience. When the script reveals particularly touchy reflections about Ms. Hunter, the characters nudge each other with-“Go ahead, if you’re going to tell it, tell it right!” with Richardson coming across as truthful and sincere.
It’s not often that a replacement performer in a successful show can bring such new conceptual delivery to warrant a return visit. This one does, in joint-jumping spades. Jackie Richardson and Janice Lorraine in this trump tight show is as good as it gets and shouldn’t be missed.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours
Where: Metro Stage, 1201 North Royal, Alexandria, VA
When: Thru March 9th, . Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8pm, Saturday-Sunday matinees 3:00 pm, Sunday at 7pm
Info: call 703-548-9044 or consult the website.
Read Debbie’s first take on Cookin’ at the Cookery here.