ABCT's "504: A Hip Hop Drama"

A Review by Alan Smason

Friday September 28, 07
by Alan Smason,

504: A Hip Hop Drama

Ty Tracy's N.O.R.D. heatre garnered a well-deserved reputation as the breakout center for local youngsters in the last four decades due to great commitment and dedication on the part of a great many people. While not nearly as well-financed or well-staffed as its city-sponsored counterpart, the Anthony Bean Community Theatre and Acting School has been quietly covering a lot of ground during this last decade, grooming a young class of actors who have steadily gained experience and depth with each passing performance. This is due in no small part to the smart and dedicated tutelage of the theatre's namesake, himself a noted performer and who serves as director and producer of a full schedule of shows.

Bean's main retinue of young actors have been working together for several summers now and they have increased the number of yearly performances from a single summer presentation to three full productions. Their latest offering deals with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and is set near Orleans and North Claiborne Avenues in the area of Central City that has been the traditional heart and soul of the African-American community.

As Aikeem, Darryl Lutcher leads a cast of seven actors who portray young New Orleanians attempting to reconnect with their city. Like the movies Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the best way they can cope with their losses and expose the meaning of what the evacuation meant to them, is simple: they put on a show! The first act is a setup for their envisioned performance for the local and international press. Bobby Toomer ably plays Montell, a troubled youth who is recruited to help tell the story of the dispossessd youth of New Orleans. Tony Felix (Lil Man) is likeable in his role and turns out to be a scene stealer with his "I'm a 504 Boy for Life" rap. Antonette Green (Centrel) turns in the best performance by a distaff member of the staff. The best part of the second act, however, is the inspirational dancing of 13 talented performers led by Andre Armstead as the male principle.

The dancing cast moves flawlessly from hip hop to New Orleans funk to soul renditions. They are full of energy and verve and deliver an incredible amount of power at each performance. At times it doesn't seem like a youth production because the acting is very professional. However, it is apparent in some of the performers that a little more seasoning is due to feel more comfortable and relaxed on stage. When the final portion of Act III is revealed, it is a typical New Orleans second line and all performers dance off the stage and into the audience. Music is edited very well and the stage, while sparse, does give one a feel of a post-Katrina involvement replete with spray painted X's on the backdrop and watermark lines. This is defintely not "Cinderella Battistella," so parents should keep in mind that younger children should not attempt to see the play unless with a parent or guardian because of its adult nature.

There is little more that can be said other than to remind everyone the play has but one performance available on Saturday before it closes (the Sunday afternoon performance is already sold out).