The Melody of Deception is a joyous production from Canadian writer and director Dr Elaine Spencer. It is not, strictly speaking, a musical – musical numbers are not used to tell the story or substitute for conversation. But, music does feature heavily, since the setting is a gospel church – Pockets With Holes Church – and involves the agenda of the new musical director Minister Jessie (Matt Rapley), newly married to one of the Church’s own Humble Helen (Cheryl Morgan).
This is a third instalment of Dr. Spencer’s Private Pain In Public Pews series, and the format is one of my favourites – focussing on two groups of people with slightly different perspectives of the same chain of events. Small-time hustlers Johnnie (Alex Koski), Mitzy (Gilanda Boreland) and the delightful Prudence (Lorraine Edwards), owe a lot of people a lot of money from one of Johnnie’s doomed get-rich-quick schemes – a collapsed Pyramid. In desperation, they take on a cleaning contract at PWH Church, after giving it the hard sell to Prudence – a deliberate ‘backslider’ with the intention of blocking out her unwanted, frightening gift of receiving Divine messages.
The PWH Church community seem close-knit with their blissful Minister Terry (Aadin Church), their old and curmudgeonly Bishop (Gregory Green), his wife (Londa Larmond), the apparent church rock Sister Sarah (Diahann Walcott) and the returning, eternally single Humble Helen. They are on the brink of completing their mortgage payment and all seems well.
The story unfolds at a steady pace, made all the more enjoyable by the gospel numbers – even more so as the audience join in with many of the more well known hymns, swelling the choir to raise the theatre rafters.
The first half is long – over 90 minutes, and as the intermission approaches, you do begin to wonder where exactly the story is going, enjoyable as it is. It is with some surprise, then, that in the almost equally long second half, new intense storylines suddenly appear – some which seem like a natural follow-on of what has gone before, and some which feel a little shoe-horned in, because they happen to be relevant to black urban communities.
One character, thoroughly unlikeable in the first half, suddenly develops multiple dimensions in the second, almost too late for the audience to effectively adjust and empathise. Due to its length, the play itself feels baggy and in need of editing. It is at the end that you realise there were elements it could simply have done without. One woman behind me was left fretting about time enough to go home and season up her meat for Sunday. This wasn’t helped by Dr. Spencer holding a small revival after the show! Still, despite its length, some of the lesser storylines felt under-developed and rushed.
The director has tried to make the play relevant to a global black audience, having already played in Canada and Jamaica, and she has succeeded in spades. The cast speak in American/Canadian and convincing Jamaican accents, but some of the acting was uneven. The delight of the production is Gregory Green’s Bishop, who was note-perfect, judging by the audience’s reaction to his every word and gesture – just brilliant! Lorraine Edwards displayed a little of the Whoopi Goldberg magic as Prudence (with Patois!). Gilanda Boreland’s Mitzy also conveyed how intertwined music is with a black person’s sense of joy and good luck – fantastic! The music is uplifting and inspirational due, in no small part, to the incredible vocals of Londa Lormond, Aadin Church and Matt Rapley – both accompanied and a cappella.
Spending one night in the Aberdeen St Church of God of Prophecy in Birmingham on May 15th, and then just two in the Broadway Theatre Catford, the play moves on its way, continuing to spread the joyful Word and “support artistic gifts that glorify Jesus”.
Other Cast Members: Shanique Lodge (Grace), Marissa Blagrove (Sis Linda), Marc Yves Destra (Pastro Muster)
Catch this instalment along with Part 1: Private Pain In Public Pews and Part 2: Prayer Still Works – all available on DVD from the website www.kaleoproduction.com by Kaleo Productions – a faith-based company.
To audition for Dr. Spencer’s stage plays, send your headshot and resume to: email@example.com
This is a joint Afridiziak & The British Blacklist review by @DescantDeb; For more theatre news and reviews go to: www.afridiziak.com/theatrenews
review for the british blacklist & afridiziak by @DescantDeb