×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Madea’s Class Reunion

Tyler Perry is a raw, major talent just beginning to hit his stride. Although "Madea's Class Reunion" and his five previous plays have been targeted exclusively for black theatergoers, Tyler's subject matter -- adultery, work problems, ageism, identity crises -- guarantees a wider fan base and crossover potential.

With:
Band: Mike Frazier, Jimmy Wyatt, Lamont Allen, Eric Morgan. Opened Sept. 2, reviewed Sept. 3, 2003; runs through Sept. 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Tyler Perry is a raw, major talent just beginning to hit his stride. Although “Madea’s Class Reunion” and his five previous plays have been targeted exclusively for black theatergoers, Tyler’s subject matter — adultery, work problems, ageism, identity crises — guarantees a wider fan base and crossover potential.

Peter Wolf’s two-level hotel set, with its faux marble pink bar and registration desk, and Maria Cooper’s madcap costumes establish the zany mood, and before long a group of dysfunctional graduates for the class of ’53 pour into the Pandora Hotel lobby. These include Stephanie (Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley), hooker-daughter of 74-year-old Emma (Chandra Currelley-Young), who has worked as a maid for more than 30 years and despairs about Stephanie’s damaged life. Corey (Terrell Carter), Stephanie’s abusive pimp husband, barges in, determined to keep his wife turning tricks.

Sex is also the stumbling block for two other couples: Clarence (Selmo Gordon), cheating on wife Diana (Judy Peterson) with hotel manager Ann (Chantell Christopher), and Trina (Pam Taylor), who wants forgiveness from her angry husband Horace (D’wayne Gardner) after a brief affair. Hilariously presiding over these squabbling spouses is Willie Leroy (Perry), loudmouthed bellman and bartender. An inspired bit has Leroy forcing Clarence to strip and hand over his sweatshirt, pants, watch and Nikes, as a reward for helping Clarence conceal his infidelity.

Perry’s portrait of the outspoken, duplicitous Leroy is a comedic gem, and his second-act drag transition into Madea, gray-wigged mama with massive breasts, is crowd-pleasing but too submerged in schtick. Some of Madea’s bizarre advice is funny, such as a spiritually motivated suggestion to forgive an abusive mate, and if that fails, to give him a swift kick in the groin. Madea is also a hoot in a film clip that features her arguing with a policeman over a ticket, then racing away, football breasts bouncing, the officer in hot pursuit.

Keeping the plot on course is Christopher’s villainous Ann. When she fires the aging Emma, she represents every boss who only views business via the bottom line. Christopher’s portrayal maintains its hard edge, despite a mistaken script attempt to humanize her through the threat of cancer. Resolution of the hooker-pimp relationship, in view of the stark reality shown, goes for the gag at the expense of logic and character.

In a notable cast, Tamela Mann stands out, vocally and dramatically, as assistant hotel manager Cora. Currelley-Young raises the rooftops with “I Need Thee.” Best of all is Cheryl Riley’s “Taking My Life Back,” an intense blend of anguish and newly restored hope. First-class musicians heighten the impact of Tyler’s songs, although the sound levels are too high, obliterating some key lyrics and dialogue.

Popular on Variety

Madea's Class Reunion

Kodak Theater; 3,400 seats; $42.50 top

Production: A Peachz Entertainment in association with ALW Prods. presentation of a play in two acts with book, words and music by Tyler Perry. Directed by Tyler Perry. Sets, Peter Wolf; costumes, Maria Harper; sound, Mike Charbonneau and Bruce Danz; production manager, Greg Stewart; stage manager, Chris Lear; musical director, Mike Frazier.

Cast: Band: Mike Frazier, Jimmy Wyatt, Lamont Allen, Eric Morgan. Opened Sept. 2, reviewed Sept. 3, 2003; runs through Sept. 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

More Legit

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

  • A Very Expensive Poison review

    London Theater Review: 'A Very Expensive Poison'

    Vladimir Putin owes his power to the stage. The president’s closest advisor trained as a theatre director before applying his art to politics, and ran Russia like a staged reality, spinning so many fictions that truth itself began to blur. By scrambling the story and sowing confusion, Putin could exert absolute control. The long-awaited latest [...]

  • Betrayal review Tom Hiddleston

    Broadway Review: 'Betrayal' With Tom Hiddleston

    and Zawe Ashton as a long-married couple and Charlie Cox as the secret lover. Director Jamie Lloyd’s impeccable direction — now on Broadway, after a hot-ticket London run — strips Pinter’s 1978 play to its bare bones: the excruciating examination of the slow death of a marriage.  It’s a daring approach, leaving the characters nowhere [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content