‘The Frankie Lymon Story’ Brings Doo-Wop Back to D.C.

Theater

by: Micha Green Special to the AFRO syoes@afro.com
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A local nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering cross-cultural understanding, increasing awareness and preserving the legacy of Black heritage in the Black Theatre, recently put on a production of Fool in Love: The Frankie Lymon Story in Silver Spring, Md.

While it still may not be apparent why fools fall in love, Live Garra Theatre’s production, currently playing at Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, chronicles the rise and fall of the teen, doo-wop and rhythm and blues sensation.

Cast members Lori Williams, Rayshun Lamarr (Frankie Lymon) and Roz White perform during the “Fool in Love: The Frankie Lymon Story” stage play in Silver Spring, Md. (Courtesy Photo)

Directed by D.C. director Thomas W. Jones II, the fast-moving, finger-snapping, and foot-tapping show transports audiences to the early 1950s when Lymon was just a little boy, singing with his family, working as a grocery boy, and pimping on the streets, to the very end of his life, when he died of an overdose at 25.

Despite the tragic ending of Lymon’s life, the powerhouse cast, featuring the high-energy and impressively high-pitched singing of Rayshun Lamarr (Lymon), and the sweet, soulful, and sometimes, sensual sounds of Roz White and Lori Williams help audiences to understand what made the young artist great and memorable almost 50 years after his death in 1968.

“It’s a classic retelling of a story that should be heard historically and you have someone who is a pioneer in this music.  We know about the Little Stevies of the world… but the Frankie Lymons of the world become obsolete.  You don’t hear so much about them or their lifestyles so we want to make sure their story is told accurately and authentically,” said ensemble member, and professional singer and music teacher, Lori Williams.

“He was a great artist despite the downfalls. He was a wonderful artist.  He put out great music… and I just think people need to know his story other than the movie that’s out,” Lamarr told the AFRO, referencing the 1998, Warner Bros. Pictures film, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” starring Larenz Tate as the teenage superstar.

“I think you get a little more understanding through the show, than you do just looking at the movie.  And I think it’s just important for people to come see it in real life.  To see the action of it- the story, and what happened when, how it went down, and to actually be there in the presence.  I know it’s not reality, but just to be there live is a great thing to do,” he said.

Since its New York debut, Fool in Love has had a few iterations, including a two-day show run at a Senior Center in Atlanta, yet this is the first long-running version of the production, and its D.C. debut.

“It’s swinging. It’s fun to lay it out for a long period of time, because really it’s a show that doesn’t wear out…. It’s just fun,” William Knowles, who is the musical composer and band director, told the AFRO. He has been part of the production since its original stage production in 2010 at the Triad Theatre in New York City.

The story of Lymon’s life was told with the fun, feelings associated with doo-wop.  With song, dance, comedic relief, and a great deal of audience interaction, the show keeps viewers engaged, on the edge of their seats and even singing and snapping along to the doo-wop sounds.

“Frankie was not in a can.  He was singing to you in a real live fashion.  And it’s a very different energy to have real people singing and real people playing, than someone playing the air guitar or something, or someone who makes beats,” Knowles said.

The “Fool in Love” production is scheduled to run until Nov. 19 at the Live Garra Theatre in residence at Silver Spring Black Box Theatre.

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