Anika Larsen fashions a musical out of her own unorthodox upbringing as a child of 1960s peaceniks.
Quick, somebody — write this woman a show, so she won’t waste her gifts on another do-it-yourself project like this one. Anika Larsen, who played a hot and hilarious muse in “Xanadu,” has fashioned a musical out of her own unorthodox upbringing as the child of 1960s peaceniks who adopted a United Nations of orphans and brought them up to make peace, not war, and sing folk songs. Jaradoa (Just A Roomful of Artists Doing Outreach And) Theater may be politically worthy as community theater goes, but Larsen is a natural-born musical force who belongs on Broadway.
With an ensemble of 17 backing her up, Larsen tells her own story of growing up in Cambridge, Mass., with nine brothers and sisters, several of them adopted from war-wrecked countries like Vietnam and Cambodia and a few of them deeply troubled, indeed. Even if you take into account that her hippie parents were trust-fund babies, their idealistic vision of creating “a microcosm of the world” — and fixing its troubles in the cradle — is as sweet and unselfish as it gets.
Anika starts out to tell the story herself — specifically, she wants to talk about her identity issues of growing up in a rainbow-colored family. “I just never felt quite white,” she says, struggling to explain her attraction to men of color and to music with soul.
According to the show’s awkward premise — that Anika needs a fresh perspective to tell her story — the narrative is hijacked by ensemble members representing her brothers and sisters. They can sing, they can dance, and in the case of a few performers like Lawrence Stallings, they do it on a professional level. But who can watch anyone else when Anika is raising the rafters with that gospel-inflected voice of hers in “Glory, Glory,” or enthusiastically shaking her booty — appropriately enough, in the well-executed schoolyard chant, “Shake Ya Booty.”
But Anika the scribe is her parents’ daughter. This is no showcase for her personal talents, but a use of those talents to advance Jaradoa’s cause of producing theater “that promotes mercy, beauty and truth … and use storytelling to address brokenness in our community.”