A BORDERS PROJECT
THE DARK STAR FROM HARLEM is a non-traditional musical about nineteen year old Josephine Baker, arriving in Paris for the first time. It was 1925 and the art forms of Avant Garde ruled the day. There was Dada, Surrealism, Art Deco and then African. Writers and poets? They utilized free association. Meanwhile, Josephine Baker and La Revue Negre brought along some modern art of their own. A brand new style of music called jazz! Of course, these cats utilized improvisation. Parisians were also introduced to an exciting new dance called the Charleston. Basic structure with free flowing movement.
This cultural exchange was exactly what Paris needed after World War I, which ended in 1918. Freedom was in the air and Africa was everywhere. Masks and sculptures were as popular as any painting by Pablo Picasso. Modern artists were deeply influenced by African expressions. They were also instrumental in creating the word, Negrophilia. Which literally translates to, love of the Negro. This era was known as Les Annes Folles. The crazy years. It was France’s version of the Roaring 20’s and the Harlem Renaissance.
Josephine Baker exploded in the middle of this perfect cultural storm. She ignited the imagination of the French while dancing in a skirt made of bananas. In Dance Sauvage, a duet with Joe Alex, she wore nothing but a pink flamingo feather between her legs. Josephine became the embodiment of living and breathing African art. A Parisian’s African dream. Josephine was Africa. “Primitive” elegance was something fresh and new, so big enthusiastic crowds paid to see her again and again.
The stylized arc of this story follows a goofy teenage chorus-girl who becomes a huge star, literally, overnight. A glamorous international star in only a couple years. While on a journey toward self-acceptance, Josephine is haunted by memories of racial violence back home. Shame and pain in USA. Then during a sold out engagement in Berlin, she encounters the insults of a young Adolph Hitler. Josephine’s personal life also suffers when she discovers how difficult it is to find love, while being a sexual fantasy. So she throws herself into her work and becomes the most photographed woman in the world. And a committed humanitarian.
The laughs in this show are plentiful as the script pays homage to vaudevillian traditions of the 1920’s. There are jokes, gags and irreverence. The Ensemble is comprised of the Harlem Chorus (who bring the attitude), the MC (French Narrator) and the European Chorus, (who portray French and German characters.) The show ends with a big, spectacular music hall performance as Josephine Baker ultimately decides to live in Paris as an Expatriate.
THE DARK STAR FROM HARLEM is full of great music, both standards, and original compositions. The show is part narrative, part review, part Dixieland Jazz concert. There are, also, several high-energy dance numbers that swing. The story is poignant but the show is simply happy visual candy. With lots of heart and soul.
Oh, and the costumes dazzle!!
LOGLINE: Ya gotta be ready when time shines your light.