How ‘Suffs’ Made a Musical No Women’s Voting
This is the first, as this review does not include the opening night performance of the much-anticipated Public Theater musical. Suffs (at least until May 15) However, the theater still considers tonight as opening night. Several COVID cases among the cast – including the lead actor and author of the book, music and lyrics, Shaina Taub – mean that all performances are cancelled, from now hours, until Sunday.
So: a review and a “get well soon” tag. Suffs is an extremely detailed study of the fight to ensure women’s suffrage, through the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, made into a three-hour musical without details. any tidbits omitted. The title stands for “those who suffer”—or “those who suffer” as we sternly remind in the musical. Comparison was made with Hamilton—In it, it is a modern unfolding of an important moment and movement in American history; at the beginning of his life at the Public Theater; and in the film stars Tony and Emmy nominated Phillipa Soo – but the two feel very different.
The cast, dressed in special period costumes by Toni-Leslie James, numbered about 20 people. Excellent, multi-award winning Taub plays leading activist Alice Paul. As the musical opens, Paul is the young gun, going up against the more ardent women’s movement leader Carrie Chapman Catt (Coming from far awayJenn Colella nominated by Tony). Their conflict is the classic conflict of campaigners: One is cautious, and used to work gently and softly in the corridors of power; Paul, believing the strategy was not gaining traction, pursued a more tenacious approach.
Paul is a firm, resolute presence, but her fierceness is inward and she doesn’t feel clearly the center of the show. Instead, Taub plays her as a sly, silent strategist. That may be true for the person Paul is, but it makes for a tough musical protagonist, and the musical venue conflict between Paul and Catt feels more procedural than defining. They do different things, and so they move on. They seem to complement each other rather than in the daggers drawn.
Taub used other leading figures of the day, Paul’s Radicals, to add color. Lucy Burns (Ally Bonino) is a kind, dedicated, and longtime friend. Inez Milholland (Soo) is rich and wonderful, and ready to fight. Ruza Wenclawska (Hannah Cruz) is a hardline union leader. Doris Stevens (Nadia Dandashi) is an idealistic student who will eventually write the history that forms the basis of the musical.
The show, directed by Leigh Silverman, features many speeches and songs. It felt like a serious but determined thought to find pleasure where it was possible — often in the corners and sassyness shared between women. Conflicts concerning race, class, and generation are portrayed among women, but not destructive.
Leading Black feminists Ida B. Wells (Nikki M. James), Mary Church Terrell (Cassondra James) and her daughter Phyllis Terrell (J. Riley Jr.) show Black women as well how central to women’s suffrage and how they have been marginalized in the movement — down to their position in the marches — and in policymaking. The 19th Amendment may have granted women the right to vote, but many Black women were still excluded from doing so.
The songs on the show are stirring, if repetitive. Raja Feather Kelly’s creative choreography is showcased on an elaborate stage, featuring steps to the imaginary seats of power on Capitol Hill. The show’s funniest moments are when performance planning and performance is succinctly done, and the women’s personal relationships with each other are cemented.
What’s most interesting is Grace McLean as President Woodrow Wilson, a fanatic of the obstruction of equality, wearing armor and smiling as he excuses his misperception around “Ladieessss”. He was scary and winked at the same time. As Wilson’s secretary of state, Dudley Field Malone, Tsilala Brock plays another particularly tricked-out role, as Dudley begins to fall in love with Doris.
The musical evokes the hunger strike of women who have to endure being jailed after protesting at the White House. On stage, this tense period is eerily distilled into a jumble of stage misery and fainting. As in Paradise Square on Broadway, which also attempts to portray key social moments through song and dance, the music charts a rambling path ahead of a resounding and moving finale that makes home This reviewer wishes we’d seen more of the relationship between the women on stage evolving throughout the show (for the most part, it’s just the policy debate and disagreements we witness). ).
It’s strange when Suffs chose to drop some personal surprises about the women near the end — including unrevealed lesbianism and same-sex attraction. The surprises don’t serve any dramatic purpose, except as a sort of set of delayed episodes that would have been better integrated into the main body of the show. But Suffs‘the focus is on history, and — towards the end — on passing on the torch and advocacy fervor to the next generations.
If you’ve spent time with activists, the program will make the most sense to you, because their focus and dedication is what matters. Suffs most attached to the transmission. The final song and the closing moments of the program are a bell to honor the strength and collective strength, when a performance of many vocalists unite to sing as one.
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