By William Wolf

TEXAS IN PARIS  Send This Review to a Friend

An unpretentious presentation of a musical play based on true events and real people, “Texas in Paris” is a moving, heartwarming entertainment. Cleverly written by Alan Govenar and presented by The York Theatre Company, the play teams Lillias White and Scott Wakefield as two Texas performers who go abroad to do a concert in Paris in 1979, get to know each other as they banter amusingly about their personalities, life perspectives and race relations. Most of all, they sing, she with her spiritual-style repertoire, he with his cowboy twangy, guitar-accompanied performing.

White and Wakefield, portraying African-American Osceola Mays and white John Burris and superb in their respective individualities, are a joy to see and hear. As Mays, White has the deeper songbook, applying her thrilling voice to such numbers as “All God’s Children Got Shoes,” “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See,” “Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep,” “Wade in the Water,” “Oh, Freedom,” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.”

Wakefield, in a wry, intimate manner, deftly communicates special appeal with a selection of numbers that include “Windy Bill,” “Power in the Blood,” “Rounded Up in Glory,” “Zebra Dun,” “Cowpuncher Riding the Range,” “Ain’t Got No Use for the Woman,” “Git Along Little Dogies” and “When the Work’s All Done This Fall.”

They open and close together singing “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” and “Miss Mary Mack,” and ending symbolically with “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” Given the differences in their lives, there is a gentle antagonism at first, which is eventually bridged with warmth. It is a pleasure to see the interplay between these artists, and of course, just hearing the songs is enough of a treat.

The setting is simple—two chairs on stage. “Texas in Paris” is directed by Akin Babatundé and the music supervision is by Amy Jones. In the theater lobby one can see an exhibit of photos of and information about the real characters being depicted. It is gratifying to see how a musical play performed with such straightforward simplicity in an intermission-less 80 minutes can have such an uplifting effect. At The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s, Citicorp Building, entrance on East 54th Street off Lexington Avenue. Reviewed February 6, 2015.


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