Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The hills and Gonzaga are alive with the sound of (Black) music

Some Black adaptations of classic entertainment, such as the recent remake of “The Wonder Years,” featuring a Black family in the South, are award-winners. The multi-NAACP Image Awards nominee and Peabody winner was full of laughs. Other Black adaptations didn’t receive the same accolades. There was “The New Odd Couple,” for example, which featured an African American tandem, Ron Glass and Demond Wilson as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, which only lasted one season.

File “The Sound of (Black) Music” in the former camp of accolades and success. The inventive reimagining of Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” is a dynamic production that doesn’t alter the lyrics but rearranges the music.

“The words in the songs, the joy, apply to the Black experience,” producer and co-creator Jono Gasparro said while calling from Los Angeles. “We’re taking a musical that’s so cherished and well known and adding to it.”

Such beloved Sound of Music staples as “Do-Re-Me,” “Edelweiss” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” are recast through a soulful, musical kaleidoscope of jazz, gospel, blues, soul, funk and Afro-beat.

The unique show, which is viewed through an Afrofuturistic lens of love and inclusion is slated for Tuesday at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center’s Coughlin Theater.

Co-producer Michael Mwenso created the music for the adventurous production. Mwenso was born in Africa but grew up in London before moving to New York City.

“Michael has experienced so much, and he brings what he’s seen to the music,” Gasparro said. “He re-envisioned a great play and embedded it with Black music that is worth checking out.”

Co-director Shariffa Ali believes it was time to dust off “The Sound of Music” and come at it with a different, contemporary take.

“It breathes new life into a beloved work, offering a fresh perspective and making it relevant to contemporary audiences,” Ali said. “Second, it highlights the enduring impact of Black music on American popular culture, underscoring the importance of recognizing Black contributions to the arts. Finally, it aligns with the broader mission of promoting diversity and inclusion in the arts by centering BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) performers and celebrating their talents in a traditionally Eurocentric genre.”

Kamilah Long is Ali’s co-director. Mathis Picard handles the arrangements. Vocalists C. Anthony Bryant, Brianna Thomas, Charenee Wade and Zhanna Reed will belt out the songs while fronting a solid band.

“What the musicians bring is a powerful experience that’s different,” Gasparro said. “I can’t really compare it to anything else.”

Gasparro notes that the show is entitled “The Sound of (Black) Music,” but he hopes folks know the doors are open to everyone.

“What this production is all about is bringing people together,” Gasparro said. “This is designed to break down fears about Black culture. This is a place where the Black community and beyond can see what we do in this show. Part of what this show is about uniting, healing and uplifting through the experience we provide, which I think is good for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin.”