Monday, March 25, 2013

"My Brother Marvin" stage play about the life and tragic death of iconic soul singer Marvin Gaye gets 4 stars... A tastefully done and entertaining play with Clifton Powell stealing the show as Marvin Gaye's father Marvin Gay Sr, it is a must see theater production ...A critique by Cleveland Urban News.Com Editor-In-Chief Kathy Wray Coleman

Actor Tony Grant, left, who plays a young Marvin Gaye in the theatrical drama "My Brother Marvin" rehearses for a duet in the play with actress Lia Grant, who plays the late singer Tammi Terrell
CLEVELAND,Ohio- Cleveland Urban News.Com News Brief, and, Ohio
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Critique By Editor-In-Chief Kathy Wray Coleman of the Stage Play "My Brother Marvin," Which Debuted On  Thursday, March 21 At The State Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio And Ran Through Sunday, March 24
Theater Critic and Cleveland Urban News.Com
Editor-In-Chief Kathy Wray Coleman

CLEVELAND, Ohio- The life of the late Marvin Gaye, one of the most talented soul and R&B singers of all time, came alive momentarily at The State Theatre in Cleveland last week in Geola Gaye's "My Brother Marvin," a stage play written by play-write Angela Barrow Dunlap and directed by Clifton Powell. It tells the story of the life and tragic death of the troubled but beloved icon whose cocaine addiction brought IRS liens, family troubles and personal and professional strife at the height of his career in the late 70s and early 80s. I would give the theater production four stars.

Play-wright Angela Barrow Dunlap


Actor, Comedian and Director Clifton Powell

Powell, 57, also plays Marvin Gaye's father, Marvin Gay Sr., in the theatrical drama. He stole the show, and I say this not simply because I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Powell one-on-one before the show debut in Cleveland last Thursday, but because the man is a brilliant actor, and it showed Sunday night, the final night of the production's four day run in the majority Black major metropolitan city. 

Zeola Gaye
The play features a star cast and also includes Emmy Award Winner Lynn Whitfield, and Tondy Gallant as Marvin Gaye's sister Geola Gaye. Her book, that bears the same name, inspired the play, one that tells a riveting story of her brother's life, and his death from a gun shot wound inflicted by their father on April 2, 1984 on the eve of the singer's 45th birthday. 

Whitfield splendidly plays Marvin Gaye's supportive mother Alberta who is torn between the motherly love of her son and her commitment to her abusive, cross-dressing husband, Gaye's father, one of 13 children who was abused as a child by his mother, and a ne'er do well baptist minister who seemingly hated himself as much as he despised his son's successful career and his "secular music."
Actor Havier Hill-Roller

Narrator Duane Davis sets the tone and the music direction by Cardell Walton is magnificent. Other actors include 15-year-old Havier Hill-Roller (Marvin Gaye as a teenager), Tony Grant (Marvin Gaye as a young man), Keith Washington (Marvin Gaye as he nears middle age),  Lia Grant as Tammi Terrell, and John Terrell as Motown promoter and Marvin Gaye's musical mentor Berry Gordy. The talented Tondy Gallant also plays Anna Gordy, a sister of Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye's first wife, who was 17 years his senior. 

Also highlighted is Marvin Gaye's push for world peace during the Vietnam War and his support of Civil and human rights, efforts that were often overshadowed  by his publicized drug use. 

The play is inspirational, educational and tastefully done. And it is void of some of the typical jargon, vulgar lyrics and subordination and disrespect of Black women and girls that too frequently accompanies Black theater.

Marvin Gaye fans, however, will not get to enjoy some of the singer's top hits such as “Sexual Healing," “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” “Save the Children” or What’s Going On" because of copy-write material. But the supreme acting, stellar music design and high tech choreography almost make up for it.

Zeola Gaye appears on stage at the conclusion of the 2 hour and 45 min. play to salute her brother and to briefly discuss drug addiction and substance abuse, a sensitive subject in the Black community, and across racial and ethnic lines. 

"My Brother Marvin" is a must see stage production. It is the kind of theater that we need more of in the Black community. Though longer than the average theater play, it flows with such strength that one hardly notices its length. 

Running Time: Two hours 45 min., including one 15 min. intermission.

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