Walking into the Warner Theatre, there’s one thing that seems off. As always, the space is beautiful. The set is on stage, showing how well the set designer did in presenting a realistic, homey atmosphere while tying in to the 1920s architecture of the venue. Nothing seems too out of place, so it takes a moment to fully realize what’s different. The theatre is loud. With respectable attendance for a Wednesday night, though by no means a full house, the noise seems to be excessive, and unfortunately—both in the audience and on stage – that’s a theme throughout the night.
For what reportedly is a “highly successful, top-grossing, long running stage play,” there does not seem to be a lot of information available for Why Do Good Girls like Bad Boyz? Only recently revived after its initial run in 1995, it’s difficult for those unfamiliar with the play to find out much more than the fact that they will be seeing a “gospel musical” that has something to do with problems that are prevalent in many urban communities. Watching the show, it seems the title gives you most of what’s left of the plot – namely the girls in the play ending up with men (boyz) that are drug dealers, gang members, and/or simply abusive.
At the start of the play, “good” girl, Shannon (Drew Sidora), is preparing to leave her supportive, church-going family to be the first family member in five generations to go to college. Leaving behind her “good” boyfriend, Michael (Terrell Carter), Shannon quickly falls in with the wrong crowd, leaving Michael without second thought for a drug dealer named Silk (Leon). Throwing in domestic abuse, gangs, teenage pregnancy, high school shootings, and unemployment with various characters, Why Do Good Girls like Bad Boyz? hits upon any number of issues found in urban communities—which perhaps was the productions downfall.
While perhaps the most noticeable and most remarked upon problem of the evening was the sound equipment – speakers were too loud or too soft, some microphones weren’t on or left on backstage—it is possible to at least excuse those blunders as first night jitters.
What truly seems to be the problem with Why Do Good Girls like Bad Boyz? is the play itself. With a top-billed cast including both gospel and R&B recording artists, the vocals are superb, and the acting is passible, but the parts of the performance where the actors shine through the most are when things went wrong and they weren’t confined to the script.
At his entrance, Lucky (Bill Hill), a drug dealer and minion to king pin Silk, realizes that his microphone hasn’t been turned on. Still in character, he acknowledges the fact, trying to get it turned, and finally re-choreographing the scene on the spot so he can speak into another actor’s mic. Later, Carter gets stuck on stage due to a missed lighting cue finally stating, “I don’t think they’re turning off the lights, let’s get out of here!” in character, in the middle of obviously script endorsed ad libing.
In all, whether a choice of direction or simply the script, the awkwardness of scenes comes from the actors being forced to take themselves too seriously in certain scenes. Playing, as a whole, stereotypes, the actors do a great job overacting the parts —something that naturally brings out the comedy in the comedic scenes, but undermines any attempted drama later on. Laughing fits from the audience often over powered scenes meant to be “dramatic” (as told by the dark music underscoring them) leaving the screaming or crying on stage seeming, if anything, absurdist.
With a beautiful set design and great vocals, Why Do Good Girls like Bad Boyz? has its redeeming qualities. With the proper stereo balance, it would have been very enjoyable just listening to the all-star cast of singers (though proper stereo balance, or ear plugs to bring the volume down to a bearable level, is/are needed as of Wednesday night.) However, with the awkward script or direction it would almost be preferable for missed cues to continue unfixed—giving the actors a chance to give in to the shear absurdity that seems inherent in the play.
Running time is 150 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
Why Do Good Girls like Bad Boyz? plays at The Warner Theatre – 513 13th Street NW
in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online.
Watch a My FoxDC.com interview with cast members Leon and Drew Sidora.