La Bohème, Thu Mar 5
By any measure Paul Robeson was an extraordinary figure, both musically and politically. It would take considerable skill to imitate Robeson in a musical tribute show. Tayo Aluko does a fine job with the songs, but taking a cue from the show’s title the songs take a secondary role to the story he wants to present to us.
The great songs are all there, Ol’ Man River, Joe Hill, The Battle Of Jericho, but it’s more monologue with occasional songs than musical theatre. It is Paul Robeson’s life, his beliefs and involvement in unionism and human rights activism to the chagrin of the American government that Mr Aluko wants us to know about.
The ‘Call Mr Robeson’ in the title is a reference to his appearance before the House of Un-American Activities Committee to explain his interest and involvement in the Communist Party. The full range of injustices dealt to Mr Robeson and his career for his defiance is dealt with in detail.
The momentum and power of the show suffers a little from Mr Aluko’s enthusiasm for his topic. Eighty minutes is a long time to be lectured to, even on a topic as fascinating as Paul Robeson. There is room for editing in some scenes, such as the rather histrionic suicide attempt. But it is a strong performance and some audience members gave it a standing ovation.
Call Mr Robeson: A Life, With Songs continues at La Bohème until Sun Mar 15.
Book atFringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Carol Rosegg