Resurrect People is the Message of “Witness Uganda”
I, for one, did not imagine that the story of a young actor traveling to Uganda to do humanitarian work would make good musical theatre (I had a similar thought when “Pippin” – the story about Charlemagne’s son – was first produced on Broadway in 1972 and look what happened there). I was thrilled to be proven wrong last night when I attended a preview of “Witness Uganda” at the American Repertory Theatre.
Griffin Matthews was a young actor living in New York in 2005 when he decided to join a group that was building schools in Uganda. This musical chronicles his journey, both literally and figuratively.
The audience was hooked from the moment the cast took the stage. Although none of the actors is African, they are 100% convincing in their roles. I do not know a lot of Africa-born people but I have seen many concerts of African performers, and I had to read the playbill to know that they were not from Africa.
Griffin plays himself in this production; some people might think that would be easy but I have a feeling it is not.
Griffin wrote the play with Matt Gould who led and performed in the band. The music is spirited and the choreography perfect. The costumes appeared authentic. I hope the music becomes available as an original cast recording.
The play does not glamorize aid work. It does, in fact, let the audience feel that it is complex at best to provide help in developing nations. Life in Uganda was a daily struggle for Griffin. We feel how much it changed his life.
The play is expertly directed by Diane Paulus, the Artistic Director of A.R.T. who has won several Tony awards. Even though I saw the play in previews, the production was tight with no visible missteps.
The audience gave a standing ovation (not a typical occurrence in Boston-area theatres) that lasted about five minutes. During that time, the cast reprised a couple of songs from the show to our delight. Griffin as well as other cast members were visibly overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection for Griffin’s and Matt’s stellar creation.
After the show. Griffin and Matt led a 20-minute Q&A session which prompted some interesting questions. If – and when – you attend this show, I would recommend staying for this “Act III”.
For more information on how you can help, go to the Uganda Project website.
“Witness Uganda” opens on February 12 and runs through March 16. I highly recommend seeing this award-winning play which might be destined for Broadway.
Posted on February 13, 2014, in theatre reviews, Uncategorized and tagged A.R.T., American Repertory Theatre, Diane Paulus, Griffin Matthews, Matt Gould, Uganda Project, Witness Uganda. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.