photo: Julian Rad
Walter Robinson wrote the book, music and lyrics for this new (NYMF) musical loosely based on the true story of Denmark Vesey, an African-American whose plan to lead a slave uprising was thwarted by his capture and execution in 1822. Robinson's score is heavy on gospel, with a handful of roof-raising ensemble numbers (a couple of which are thrillingly sung a capella) that soar to the heavens: apart from the ocassional rough patch of awkward recitative, Robinson's music is richly evocative. Robinson's book, however, is as flatfooted as his score is accomplished: partly because of the device of having Vesey narrate his story, it falls into the "too much tell not enough show" trap right at the start and takes too long to break free. Robinson gives us a glimpse in the opening scene of the story's triangle, when a plantation owner buys Vesey's wife and children inspired by what he claims is love for her, but Robinson doesn't sufficiently pick up on it again until the last (and best) twenty minutes of the show.