Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
There are things in history we should never forget. The Holocaust. Vietnam. Little Rock Arkansas Little Rock by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj provides us an unforgettable musical that shows just how far or not far we have come in ending racism between blacks and whites, This play leaves an indelible mark on you that makes you want to shout out and scream in rage about the senseless violence that the Little Rock nine faced as they tried to integrate into an all white school.
In 1957, President Eisenhower and the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. However, the governor of Arkansas did not agree and failed to provide the military support to enforce the court’s decision. As a result the Little Rock nine went through hell in their attempt to go to school. Finally, President Eisenhower, ordered troops to move into Little Rock to enforce integration and finally the black students were able to attend class, but not without consequence. And the rest they say is history.
The cast is phenomenal. Several members sing a capella and their voices cut to the core bring the audience to tears several times. The struggle and pain that they covey are tangible. Rebekah Brockman is stunning in her turn as Peggy Sue. Watching her journey from an optimistic girl filled with hope for a new world into a woman who realizes the brutality of racism is both palpable and heart breaking. When her dreams get crushed so do ours. Justin Cunningham provides the much needed comic relief that gives us a momentary reprieve from the high pitched tension that feels unending and overwhelming. And why should we get a break? These students did not.
My only slight quibble with this otherwise profound production, is that they keep referring to to the Little Rock nine. This means that there were nine black students who tried to integrate. However, this show only had six actors, playing the nine students. Everytime, the play referred to nine students, we are taken out of the reality of the moment because six does not equal nine. If they spent so much money on this show, why not get three more actors to play the nine students and sustain the reality of this tension filled world that we are in?
That is a minor flaw in this powerful [production. As you can probably tell, I’m riled up by this show. It’s not just part of our past history, it’s still going on today. And with our political administration, how far back are we going to allow this country to slide? I think we should be scared, no terrified! (I have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this) Go see this show in order to never forget their hard won struggle and to make sure we do not let our country regress back into the dark ages. Up stage center there is often an always illuminated door. It’s a door of hope that as a unified people we will walk hand in hand through, a symbol of progress that we need now more than ever!
Little Rock plays now through September 8, 2018 at the Sheen Center 18 Bleeker St www. https://sheencenter.org/shows/littlerock/