Each year SummerStage at Indiana State University reaches out to bring a special flavor to their season. One year it was Russian actors for a production of "The Cherry Orchard," another was German actors for "Cabaret." This year the scene was set in the home of calypso, Trinidad, for the premiere production of David Rudder and Tony Hall’s musical "The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club." The production is directed by Tony Hall.
The ‘Club’ is neither ‘Brand New’ nor ‘Lucky.’ The musical begins as a dark coughing figure is sifting through of the ashes of the club. As the show looks back there is a leisurely progress as we learn more about the sanctuary and the scarred characters that inhabited it.
The principals in the ISU production were especially strong. Rhoma Spencer as "Prune Face," presided magisterially over the club. Janique Aiesha Baker as the colorful seamstress Chinee and Conrad Parris as the fragilely dignified transvestite Delilah were part of a strangely moving love story that was just one of the crazy quilt of tales in "The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club,"
Mark Douglas-Jones as Singh, played a deeply self-hating drunken Indian intellectual with a vicious streak of upsettingly unanswered anti-Semitism. Lew Hackleman was the confusedly reverend Mista Nation. His nickname in the club was "Old Patience," but he was frequently far from patient with his fire and brimstone predictions of the end of days.
The patrons of the "…Lucky Diamond…" were sometimes just various layabouts and at other times the singing chorus and the expressive movement chorus. Neither group looked much like what you’d expect in a sleazy bar in Trinidad, but the songs were very much part of the plotting and the choreography movements added much.
Musical direction was by Jeremy Ledbetter and Kathy Anderson. Linda Janosko designed the evocatively gritty club. Stephen Handy and Teresa McCullough were responsible for the complex choreography. Costumes, some of them stunning, were by Sherry McFadden.
Tony Hall and David Rudder’s musical "The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club" plays Wednesday and Saturday as SummerStage in Terre Haute at Indiana State University comes to a close.