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« Boss Us Around: Which Streaming Titles Must We Discuss? | Main | Three Ways "Set It Up" Succeeds »
Monday
Jun182018

Stage Door: Anika Noni Rose Brings Raw Sensuality to "Carmen Jones" Off Broadwa

Stage Door is our intermittent theater column in which we often feature plays and musicals with film connections. Please welcome guest contributor Erica Mann...

The moment Carmen Jones walks onto the stage of Classic Stage Company, it’s like time completely stops. It’s not just because the character is played by the incomparable Anika Noni Rose whose illustrious career has spanned stage (a Tony win for Caroline or Change), TV (Bates Motel, The Good Wife), and film (Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls, The Princess and the Frog). Her presence as the namesake is that powerful from the moment she sets foot into the spotlight.

Oscar Hammerstein II's adaptation of Bizet's opera Carmen became a classic screen musical in 1954 starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte but has rarely been seen on the NY stage. CSC's production is the first major New York revival since the 1940s. Carmen Jones is the story of love, lust, betrayal and tragedy with the action moved to the 1940s in the American south. Corporal Joe, stationed at an army reserve and working in a parachute factory, falls in love with the stunning Carmen Jones. Aware of his feelings, Carmen convinces him to change his life trajectory in pursuit for a life in Chicago with her. Things change when those initial feelings become blurry and passion turns into jealousy...

Classic Stage Company's beautiful production is done in the round, which gives a certain fullness to the show. The amazing voices engulf the audience, and it’s a surreal experience. There is no weak link - it’s amazing that these incredible performers can maintain their stamina and vocals throughout the week of performances!

Playing opposite Noni Rose is Clifton Duncan as the lovelorn, confused, and vulnerable, Joe. His cool, docile portrayal paired with Anika’s red hot energy plays very well on stage. There are moments where he uses his entire body to show his internal struggle and it’s heartbreaking to watch. As for Anika, she is an absolute powerhouse. Not only do her gorgeous vocals vibrate through the entire theater, but she truly understands the complexity of Carmen. She's very aware of her unbridled sexuality's effect on men, but she's also riddled with doubt and fear. The performance encompasses the beauty of black womanhood as well as the trials and tribulations that come with pursuing love. Absolutely stunning.

 

What I enjoyed the most about Carmen Jones is that it showcases black love in so many different facets. There is something so authentic about watching these characters navigate each other’s psyche and emotional baggage all while giving us beautiful arias and emotional performances. I was transfixed by the show. It's an absolute must-see. Carmen Jones is playing at Classic Stage Company in NYC through July 29th.

 

Erica Mann is a writer and film critic based in New York. Creator of The NYC Film Chick blog in 2012, she has covered film festivals such as Tribeca, New York Film Festival, and TIFF. When she is not working, tweeting, or fighting the patriarchy, she freelances as a film coordinator and producer. Erica previously served as a guest panelist on The Film Experience's 2017 Supporting Actress Smackdown.
[Follow Erica on Twitter]

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Reader Comments (7)

Thanks for the review. I don't have the album for Carmen Jones but I know Bizet's Carmen through & through and through several recordings (Tatiana Troyanos as the titular character is a personal favorite in the Solti recording). I very much like Anika Noni Rose in Caroline, or Change even if Tonya Pinkins is the heart and soul of this Tesori-Kushner musical. Rose was also a vibrant presence in the staged version of Cat on the Hot Tin Roof and truth to tell, she is my favorite Dreamgirl in the film. Her Lorelle is very much under the giant presence of Effie and Deena, but Rose managed to imbue her Lorelle with a different level of authenticity. I hope to see Carmen Jones and beat out dat rhythm on a drum!

June 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

So excited to see this, Carmen Jones is a film I've only seen once and am mostly unfamiliar with, but the opera Carmen is a total masterpiece.

June 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I'm going to see this for my birthday next weekend because I absolutely adore Anika Noni Rose and have worked with the actress playing "Cindy Lou." Rose in my opinion is undoubtedly one of the most undersung actresses working in any medium today, so it's always a treat when she shows up in anything. Her "Maggie the Cat" was indeed incendiary.

June 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Peter -- i think this production is *much* better than the film so i hope you get to see it.

Troy - enjoy. Anika is just AWESOME in it.

June 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm visiting New York for the first time next week and since Broadway will be way too expensive for my worth, I strongly consider taking my friend to this play. Thanks for the write up, I haven't been able to find much press about it.

June 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFrom Denmark

From Denmark -- it doesn't officially open until June 27th (which is when i assume it will get the bulk of its press) but it's in previews now. Erica and I went last week. You can see the schedule of performances on their official site.

June 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

BRING IT TO BROADWAYYY

June 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

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