There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Purlie, the rousing, rafter-shaking second show in the Kennedy Center’s “Words and Music” series, was a heartbreaker for its producers when it opened in 1970. The show was the first musical about the black experience to be penned by an African-American. It had its flaws, but it also had a joyous, vibrant score and a script most observers found a sharp and unusually pointed satire on race relations. Alas, as a star-maker, rather than a star vehicle, it kept getting pushed from theater to theater until it ended up closing in the red, despite running for almost 700 performances. The KenCen’s book-in-hand, no-sets-or-costumes revival—which stars Dorian (I’ll Fly Away) Harewood (pictured, second from right) in the title role, and The Wiz’s original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills (who is no slouch in the roof-raising department; pictured, second from left), as his most devoted disciple—is the first major revival in almost 30 years. And to make sure the laugh quotient remains as stratospheric as the voices, F Troop’s Larry Storch (pictured, left) will be on hand to play the clueless plantation owner who goes to his reward as the cast sings the soaring, uproarious gospel number “Walk Him Up the Stairs.” Family Matters’ Reginald VelJohnson (pictured, right) rounds out the cast. If the charming, well-received series-starter Bells Are Ringing is any indication, the crowd will be on its feet right along with the actors during the curtain calls. Purlie plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday & Friday, July 30 & 31; 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1; and 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. $35-50. (202) 467-4600. (Bob Mondello)