Musical Theatre Review - Before Motown There Was John Dolphin

"Every man needs a dream."

 

Recorded in Hollywood - Stu James- photo by Ed Krieger

This was John Dolphin's message to those who worked with him.  It was 1948, and a decade before Motown.  Despite that John Dolphin faced the system and won.  

Prevented because of the racial discrimination from opening his record shop in Hollywood, Dolphin nevertheless created his one-of-a-kind store, recording house and radio station in South Central Los Angeles.   

The world premiere of Recorded In Hollywood - The John Dolphin Story-- opened at to a packed house at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood.  Music buffs and historians will love the musical rendering of the struggles of one of the most successful black businessman and record producers.

 

Recorded in Hollywood -photo by Ed Krieger

Based on a book written by his grandson Jamelle Dolphin, the play was written by Matt Donnelly and Jamelle Dolphin, and guided by award winning NAACP director, Denise Dowse, the play spans a tumultuous time in Los Angeles music and a history of race relations from the 1950s to the 1980s. Original songs were by Andy Cooper. John Dolphin was murdered by a disgruntled employee insisting on a record deal in 1958.

Recorded in Hollywood - Brooke Brewer, Katherine Washington, Sha'Leah Nikole Stubblefield, Jenna Gillespie, Jade Johnson- Photo by Ed Krieger

Focusing on his struggles not only to get and keep his store up and running against the corruption of the local police, but on his relationship with his wife, Ruth, and his final realization that money means nothing without his family. 

Recorded in Hollywood - Jenna Gillespie, Godfrey Moye, Sha'Leah Nikole Stubblefield, Eric B. Anthony- Photo by Ed Krieger

 

In its ten year history, Dolphin’s of Hollywood was one of the most famous record shops in the country.  It launched many wonderful groups and personalities from both black and white groups such as The Hollywood Flames, Jesse Belvin, Charles Mingus, Pee Wee Crayton,and Major Lance.  A business innovator, Dolphin’s was one of the first stores to remain open 24/7 as he marketed black music to whites.  Despite the racial tension of the day, white and black kids mingled in the South Central store at all hours, enraging police chief William H Parker and the 1958 LAPD. 

One of my favorite of the songs was Earth Angel, which I fondly recalled from years past. 

 

Recorded in Hollywood -Jade Johnson and Stu James- Photo by Ed Krieger

I loved the choreography and the singing of all the players was superb, but Stu James (as Dolphin) and Jade Johnson (Ruth Dolphin) really stood out as amazing.  Jade, a new drama graduate, should have a long and fulfiling career.

The rest of the amazing cast included Eric B. Anthony, Brooke Brewer, John Deveraux,  Richie Gerris, Jenna Gillespie, Franklin Grace, Nic Hodges, Philip Dean Lightstone, Godfrey Moye, Jake Novak, Nic Olsen, Rahsaan Patterson, James Simenc, Michael Sims, Jr., Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield, and Katherine Washington.

 

Recorded in Hollywood - Ensemble - Photo by Ed Krieger

Raquel Lehrman of Theatre Planners, aided by Victoria Watson produced the play, while Stephen Terry directed the music.  Mylette Nora designed the costume while Alshah Williams did the hair and make-up. 

The chemistry between the actors added to the performance as did the smooth choreography by Cassie Crump, who was assisted by Michele Cole and April Thomas

 

Recorded in Hollywood - Nic Olsen- Photo by Ed Krieger

A live orchestra consisting of Stephan Terry, Archie Wilson, Michael Wells and Bob Fazio enhanced the musical as did the music and lyrics by Andy Cooper who did 16 original songs.  Set design by Joel Daavid was aided in construction done by Brad Bentz, Cody Anderson, Jose Gonzalez, Jody Golub, and Peter Hickock while Marine Walton did the scenic art.  Ed Krieger did the press photography as Kiff Scholl and AFK Design managed the graphics.

 

Recorded in Hollywood - Photo by Ed Krieger

The musical lasts two and a half hours and while the first act is slightly long, it is, nevertheless, enjoyable.  You will find yourself hand clapping along with the singers.

Performances run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm until May 17, 2015.   Tickets are $30 and can be had by calling 323–960–4443 or by contacting the Lillian Theatre.

 

Recorded in Hollywood - Photo by Ed Krieger

It is said that music knows no color boundaries and it is true.  It didn’t make things easier for those participating.  Dolphin’s contribution to music has been much overlooked and he deserves all the credit he can get for his courageous work in bringing the races the together.  This play is a must see for anyone who loves music and should win some awards. 

 

 

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