If you enjoy smart, quality burlesque, you should go see Josephine before the show packs up for its international tour, finds a new home at an even bigger venue, and doubles the ticket price! The triple threat actress Tymisha Harris brings back true star power in her solo show about the life of the Black Pearl of Paris: Josephine Baker.
Josephine tells the story of Josephine Baker’s rollercoaster life. Born in St. Louis in 1906, she achieved only moderate success in the United States but became an international superstar after moving to France in the early 1920s. In France, she was able to life free of the racial oppression that was the norm in her home nation, and she blossomed to star in films alongside white romantic leading men, had multiple interracial marriages and homosexual relations, and sold out countless shows where she dressed in both glorious gowns, men’s clothing, or her famous banana skirt. But her life wasn’t all frivolity. Her yearning for her homeland never left her, nor did she shy away from civic duty: in fact, she is the only American woman to be buried with full French Military honors for her work as a spy for the French Resistance in WWII.
Tymisha brings to life this icon with beautiful precision. She tells the story directly to the audience in first person, at times even playfully engaging individuals in the front row, much to everyone’s entertainment. She intercuts Josephine’s stories with relevant songs from the superstar’s repertoire. Bringing to life classics such as “J’ai Deux Amours”, “Then I’ll be Happy,” and her famous “Banana Dance”.
Tymisha’s vocals are smooth and rich, her dance is sensually athletic yet authentic to the time period, and she brings a joy and innocent courage to this firecracker woman. But don’t be seduced by the sexy packaging of this show. At its heart, this story is one of the fight for equality, to love who you love, and the right to walk through the front door of any establishment. It’s is a perfect piece of theatre for the time we are currently in: showcasing a fascinating woman who broke boundaries when America hadn’t even begun to reconcile its deep racial wounds. This show is a cry for history not to repeat itself and how to live to the fullest under imperfect circumstances.
JOSEPHINE: a Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play is truly a show of what a small multi-hyphenate team can accomplish. Along with Star/Choreographer/Costume Designer Tymisha Harris, Director/Producer Michael Marinaccio and Writer/Musical Director Tod Kimbro have created a gem. The show is designed to be able to take on the road. Tymisha was inventive with her limited set and lighting options and shines in her gorgeous costuming as she sheds each outfit teasingly into the next gorgeous number. I am curious to see how a larger budget and more permanent installation would frame her brilliant performance.
On a practical note, the seats at the Soho are very short. If you are tall, make sure you get an isle seat so your legs have somewhere to go, but don’t let that stop you! Grab a drink at the bar below, cozy on up, and enjoy the show. You’ll be able to say “I saw her when…” Having previously won awards all over the Fringe circuit, this show is only starting its ascent. Josephine certainly deserved her standing ovation. In fact, it went on so long, she kicked us out of the theatre!