Debbie Allen, actress-director-choreographer extraordinaire, is using her talents to help shed light on what it’s like to be different. She’s the directorial force behind the stage production, Twist: An American Musical, now running at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, Ca. The musical, written by William F. Brown and Tina Tippit, with music by Tena Clark and Gary Prim, is a take on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, Oliver Twist, with a story infused about a boy rejected due to having been born mixed race.
Set in New Orleans, the play chronicles the life of young Twist (Alaman Diadhiou), who was born to a white mother and black father, when overt racism was alive and well in America. The boy’s mother died during childbirth, his black father was killed by the Klan and his sinister uncle left him to face the cruel, cold world alone. He turns up at an orphanage and his life takes turn after turn as he searches for his family and identity and, ultimately, changes lives with his good heart and youthful innocence.
“Twist has been an amazing journey for me, personally,” director Debbie Allen said. “To explore Dickens and guide the creative team in this transliteration was to relive many challenges I experienced as a young child growing up in the South.”
American Idol alum, Tamyra Gray, stars in the musical as Della, the first person to encounter Twist at the orphanage and who later reconnects with him to play a critical role in his dynamic journey.
Gala night recently was held to support the musical, which included attendance by Allen and her family, Ben Vereen, CCH Pounder, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Freda Payne, Hattie Winston, Beverly Todd and many more notables. –gerald radford