Created and Adapted by Nate Jacobs
Choreographed by Donald Frison
Book & Lyrics by Traditional and Various Motown Artists
Directed by Nate Jacobs
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
WBTT Theatre, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, 941-366-1505
December 2-31, 2015 

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


There are so many Motown and pop seasonal classics, along with traditional holiday songs, that it's a near miracle all get fully treated in two hours, with an intermission!  Maybe that's attributable to the fast action pacing or maybe to scene changes affected via prop changes by an exiting group of performers as a new group takes over.  And simple but effective props they are: mainly giant gift boxes moved or stacked for seats, backed by a golden cage with red and gold  bulbs separating the upstage band from performers below steps and within a three-corner round.
The show is a special, not in the subscription fall through winter season, and all the way it's WBTT's founder Nate Jacobs'  holiday gift to the community. His introductions to Motown music are short, mainly explaining  minimum relevant facts. He leaves it to the performers to slip in other salient info about the individuals or groups who made famous the songs WBTT will present in solos (with or without back-up), duets, trios, and upward. Thus, the seamlessness, even going from Motown hits  to staging I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause  and the one about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Act I has The Company (three women vocalists, five men vocalists who usually also dance, and two young male featured dancers) celebrating This Christmas followed by What Christmas Means to Me Because love is that meaning, duet MacRah Williams and Mandi Jo John call out Stop! In the Name of Love and soon Christopher Eisenberg can sing of My Girl to the male ensemble and have the audience clapping to their beat. Ariel Blue is his feminine counterpart with her strong vocal Jimmy Mack backed by the other two women. Leon Pitts II admits Can't Help Myself and  Sheldon Rhodon bravely sings Can I Get a Witness to the women, gaining the audience's full attention. The most popular Motown stars emulated include The Temptations and The Supremes and everyone including leader Nate Jacobs seems to enjoy ending Act II with S. Robinson's I Believe in Christmas Eve.
Act II has more of the traditionally Christmas and religious songs, beginning with We Rejoice by the Ensemble. Little Drummer Boy is well choreographed, including a standout dancing duet by Derric Gobourne Jr. and Joshua Thompson.  They also perform a fine dance in a Kwanza segment. Nate leads Bless This House--extending it to the Company and to the audience. Dynamic singer-dancer Michael Mendez unites with Ariel Blue to urge Give Love on Christmas Day.  For the finale, Sheldon and Mandi Jo lead a dual Go Tell It on the Mountain and Ain't No Mountain High Enough that bespeaks the show's union of traditional and Motown music. They get the audience to  clap, cheer, and even scream!
With a felt more than brightly seen presence, musicians perform perfectly under Music Director James E. Dodge II, who also plays bass guitar. The musicians are: JL Cash Jr., auxiliary keys; Todd Bellamy, piano; Willie thompson, guitar; Sheldon Graham, drums.
As usual, WBTT costumes designed by Christy Owen, especially for women, glitter in sequins and vibrant colors (no pastels).  Tech credits go to Michael Newton-Brown for his golden set using Annette Breazeale's props and lit well by Nick Jones.  Production Stage Manager is Juanita Munford.

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