You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


If rap is supposed to be the rhythm of life, then Will Power is dancing on the edge. The question is, who wants to go out there with him? Although the show is smartly constructed and given a polished delivery, his manic high-wire act demands a lot from an audience, including stamina, sympathy and like-minded sensibility. Not to mention flannel ears.

With: Will Power.

If rap is supposed to be the rhythm of life, then Will Power is dancing on the edge. The question is, who wants to go out there with him? Although the show is smartly constructed and given a polished delivery, his manic high-wire act demands a lot from an audience, including stamina, sympathy and like-minded sensibility. Not to mention flannel ears.

Those elderly white theater patrons who managed to climb the steep stairs at P.S. 122’s funky East Village facility without suffering heart attacks looked stunned when the tall, elastic-limbed performer bounded onto the stage, patting his neatly braided cornrows and speaking in what appeared to be a foreign tongue. But, after whispered consultation with their youthful companions, most of the elders in the audience seemed to get the hang of the cadenced rhythms, except for the old guys who kept their eyes glued to the gorgeous disc jockey. You have to admire Power, a dynamic performer who kept his focus and soldiered on with wit and style, even through the lackluster call-and-response segments that almost stopped the show dead in its tracks. But you also have to wonder why the savvy NYTW and partner Hip Hop Theater Festival (theater in residence at P.S. 122) couldn’t reconfigure the confining performance space — or at least dig up the young audience at which the show is so clearly aimed.

For anyone accustomed to the self-aggrandizing content and abrasive delivery of more aggressive hip-hop artists, Power’s messianic stories and amiable tutorial style should come as a pleasant surprise. “Seven/There were only seven y’all/Only seven storytellers in the neighborhood/I said/There were only seven storytellers in the neighborhood y’all,” he begins his benign rap. He then proceeds to introduce six of them and offer samples of their storytelling art.

Slipping and sliding from one colorful character to the next, Power doesn’t exactly sing and he doesn’t exactly dance. But he catches the distinctive rhythms of these street singers’ individualized idioms and finds the pulse that makes them come alive. If there’s no true poet among them (this is not “Def Poetry Jam”), there is lyricism in their language and compelling messages in their folk stories.

“The stories must pass through,” cautions Ole Cheesy, the Griot elder who holds the power of traditional storytelling art and has chosen Power to be the seventh storyteller in the neighborhood. “These tales ain’t just for stayin’ alive/Inside are the secrets on how to thrive.”

An apt student, Power learns Aesop-like animal fables from Breeze, an old drunk who uses a tale about a cockroach named Fred to warn kids about dope. Jacoba, a tall and regal schoolteacher, gives little girls a snappy lesson in strength and dignity. There’s a Preacha Man and a “freestyle queen” and plenty more with uplifting life lessons couched in down-home narratives.

Power delivers their messages with the exhausting energy of the truly touched. “Since I am the last storytella’ of my crew/I know just what I have to do,” he tells us. “I wanna teach you the old stories/And then you go make ’em new.”

It’s a good message — if it falls on the right ears.


P.S. 122, New York; 175 seats; $30

Production: A production by New York Theater Workshop and the New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival of a play in one act conceived, written and performed by Will Power. Developed and directed by Danny Hoch.

Creative: Musical direction and live mix, DJ Rebhorn. Set, David Ellis; costumes, Gabriel Berry; lighting, Sarah Sidman; additional composition, Will Hammond; additional movement, Robert Moses; production stage manager, Timothy R. Semon. Opened June 26, 2003. Reviewed June 24. Running time: 1 HOUR, 20 MIN

Cast: With: Will Power.

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. More Reviews Iranian Film Festival New York Review: 'Sheeple' Film Review: ‘Storm Boy’ [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content