Review: ‘Yesterday Came Too Soon: The Dorothy Dandridge Story’

Yesterday Came Too Soon: The Dorothy Dandridge Story (Metropole Theatre; 50 seats; $ 15 top) J.H. Prods. presents a play in two acts by Jamal Williams, produced and directed by John H. Doyle. Choreography, Sloan Robinson; costumes, Sharon Childress; musical arrangement, Aeros Deanda; stage manager, John Turner. Opened April 10, 1997; reviewed April 19; runs untilMay 25. Running time: 1 hour , 45 min. Cast: Sloan Robinson. The saga of Dorothy Dandridge, the bombshell who grabbed the Hollywood brass ring in the 1950s with the title role in Fox's all-black megamusical "Carmen Jones," is brought to life stirringly in this one-woman show, owing in large part to a powerful performance by Sloan Robinson. While not as well-known as the stories of some of Hollywood's other tragic beauties, Dandridge's journey follows the familiar road of struggle, failed marriages, exploitation, fame, bad judgment, promiscuity, booze, pills and an untimely end. Adding new dimensions to this classic plight however, is the matter of Dandridge's race, a twist that here reinvigorates a predictable tale, and the birth of a mentally retarded daughter, which emerges as the most painful component of a life filled with disappointments (among them a disastrous liaison with "Carmen Jones" director Otto Preminger). "Yesterday Came Too Soon" is set backstage at the faded Dandridge's final engagement (a minor 1965 Las Vegas gig) the day before she was found dead at age 42 from an overdose of the antidepressant drug Tofranil. A visiting cub reporter from a black newspaper who knows little of Dandridge's accomplishments --- or of her significance as a trailblazer for the black community --- is the device used to unspool the yarn. Playwright Jamal Williams has crafted a sufficiently affecting, easy-to-follow (if somewhat pedestrian) script that is greatly enhanced by Robinson's engaging delivery, precise timing and luminous intensity. Whether making her umpteenth trip to the champagne bottle or re-enacting a riveting, cathartic dance experienced on a trip to tribal Africa, her Dandridge is mesmerizing. John Doyle's direction made excellent use of a confining but convincing set (no credit given).

Yesterday Came Too Soon: The Dorothy Dandridge Story (Metropole Theatre; 50 seats; $ 15 top) J.H. Prods. presents a play in two acts by Jamal Williams, produced and directed by John H. Doyle. Choreography, Sloan Robinson; costumes, Sharon Childress; musical arrangement, Aeros Deanda; stage manager, John Turner. Opened April 10, 1997; reviewed April 19; runs untilMay 25. Running time: 1 hour , 45 min. Cast: Sloan Robinson. The saga of Dorothy Dandridge, the bombshell who grabbed the Hollywood brass ring in the 1950s with the title role in Fox’s all-black megamusical “Carmen Jones,” is brought to life stirringly in this one-woman show, owing in large part to a powerful performance by Sloan Robinson. While not as well-known as the stories of some of Hollywood’s other tragic beauties, Dandridge’s journey follows the familiar road of struggle, failed marriages, exploitation, fame, bad judgment, promiscuity, booze, pills and an untimely end. Adding new dimensions to this classic plight however, is the matter of Dandridge’s race, a twist that here reinvigorates a predictable tale, and the birth of a mentally retarded daughter, which emerges as the most painful component of a life filled with disappointments (among them a disastrous liaison with “Carmen Jones” director Otto Preminger). “Yesterday Came Too Soon” is set backstage at the faded Dandridge’s final engagement (a minor 1965 Las Vegas gig) the day before she was found dead at age 42 from an overdose of the antidepressant drug Tofranil. A visiting cub reporter from a black newspaper who knows little of Dandridge’s accomplishments — or of her significance as a trailblazer for the black community — is the device used to unspool the yarn. Playwright Jamal Williams has crafted a sufficiently affecting, easy-to-follow (if somewhat pedestrian) script that is greatly enhanced by Robinson’s engaging delivery, precise timing and luminous intensity. Whether making her umpteenth trip to the champagne bottle or re-enacting a riveting, cathartic dance experienced on a trip to tribal Africa, her Dandridge is mesmerizing. John Doyle’s direction made excellent use of a confining but convincing set (no credit given).

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