This Week in Theater
By Rose Desena
“Bird Lives”, written by Willard Manus, is the story of Charlie Parker, his struggles with the white folks that controlled the music industry, racism, and the demons that plagued so many black artists in the 40’s and the 50’s.
Montae Russell portrays Charley Parker (Bird) in the current one-man show at the Chromolume Theater. He has a striking resemblance to the famous musician and a strong powerful voice that radiates great emotion. He talks us through Parker’s life from the time he was in NYC to his years in sunny California, and finally, his last few years back in NY. Russell made me feel as if I was listening to Parker himself.
He speaks about his failures as a father and a husband and tugged on my heart strings when speaking about the life and death of his daughter. He actually made me angry when he was speaking to the FBI agent trying to get back his cabaret card; it was quite moving. Russell is easy to watch and gives the audience a glimpse of his musicianship. My only complaint is I wish there was more music, particularly Parker’s. I missed it.
The music business has come a long way, but it’s so unfortunate, even to this day, we still lose so many talented people to drugs and alcohol.
I enjoyed the story, and I think it’s a valuable historical tale. These days it seems like you get on a TV show and Boom you’re a star. We shouldn’t forget the brave creative people who paved the way against the odds for the generations that came after.
Written by: Willard Manus
Director: Tommy Hicks
Cast: Montae Russell as jazz icon Charlie Parker
Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through September 21. www.crtheatre.com, or 323-205-1617. Chromolume Theatre at the Attic is located at 5429 W. Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, 90016.
For more information, visit www.crtheatre.com or call 323-510-2688.