Tony Awards, 1974: Raisin

6 Apr


Can I start out this review to say I love Debbie Allen in just about anything?   She has such a huge personality and adds such fire to whatever she’s in, that even when she shows up in an otherwise mediocre sitcom I have an internal thrill when she shows up.   Debbie Allen has that characteristic where whatever she shows up in, your eye just follows her around to see what she’s doing.

However, this isn’t the Debbie Allen show, this is Raisin, the musical version of A Raisin in the Sun–the play by Lorraine Hansberry.   What we get is a story about a black family trying to move ahead in America.  The father had recently died, and the mother inherited a large sum of money from life insurance.  Of course everybody has ideas as to how to spend it.   The mother wants to buy a nice house–which she does, but it’s in a white community that doesn’t exactly embrace them moving in.   The son wants to open a liquor store.  The daughter wants to go to school.

This show is very likable.    The score is not incredibly strong, but works pretty well despite that, and there’s no faulting the story as providing a backbone.  My only criticism is I simply don’t see the need to musicalize A Raisin in the Sun.  As a play it’s tight and touching and nearly perfect.  The musical lets a little air out of that balloon, just enough to distance the action from the audience so they don’t get drawn in.  Also while the play has a bittersweet ending, the musical’s ending is all out happy–which slightly undercuts the complex issues the story brings up.

Those are only minor quibbles though, of all the shows that year, Raisin certainly deserved a win.


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