It often takes a village to become great. In Daniel Beaty’s Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes, lyric tenor and composer Roland Hayes embarks on a tremendous journey from a shy, sulky church boy to the trials and sacrifices that were made in order for him to become an established singer. He was often plagued by insecurity and faced backlash in many forms, but the heart of this piece lies in the ones who believed in him even when he wasn’t sure how to proceed, ultimately proving, as the production proclaims, “pain and promise make you great.”
Co-produced by Front Porch Arts Collective, directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent, and musically directed by Asher Denburg, Lyric Stage Company proudly presents this interactive, uplifting musical helmed by a stellar cast, Daniel Beaty’s Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes continuing through Sunday, December 23 at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. This is a 90-minute musical with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Packed with impressive performances, Breath and Imagination is an important musical, especially fitting for Boston since Roland Hayes is the first soloist of color to perform at Symphony Hall. Accompanied by a grand piano sitting in front of an illuminated, sliding paneled backdrop, this interactive, concert musical draws the audience into the performance with its small and mighty cast.
If I thought Davron S. Monroe was terrific in Lyric Stage’s Kiss of the Spider Woman or on the Company Theatre stage in the powerful musical, Ragtime, nothing could quite prepare me for the magnificent performance he delivers as lyric tenor and composer Roland Hayes. Not only does Monroe beautifully depict Roland Hayes’s journey as he matures from a humble childhood in a wool cap to adulthood in bow tie and tails, he also shows Hayes’s progressive vocal maturity, his powerhouse vocals rising to new, complicated heights as he masters everything from spiritual hymns to internationally-renowned classical works.
Guiding him on this audacious journey is his no nonsense, strict, and faith-filled mother, Angel Mo’, portrayed by Yewande Odetoyinbo in a captivating performance that makes it easy to see where Roland Hayes gets his inspired vocal chops. Odetoyinbo as Angel Mo’ is fierce yet humble, a quick witted woman in a shawl who shows Hayes what is truly important in life and song. She reflects the pain of her past and the weight of the immense obstacles in front of her, but consistently holds her own with faith and love.
Odetoyinbo and Monroe teamed up earlier this year in Lyric Stage’s spring musical, The Wiz and their sweet chemistry make it no surprise they are collaborating again. Much of this musical tackles the highs and lows of their relationship as he makes his way into the world.
Rounding out this stellar cast is Doug Gerber as Mr. Calhoun and Nile Scott Hawver, who portrays multiple roles seamlessly from a preacher to a teacher, his enthusiasm makes way for some exciting, touching, and humorous moments.
Enjoy the Lyric Stage Company and The Front Porch Arts Collective’s compelling musical, Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes at 140 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts through Sunday, December 23. Click here for more information and tickets. Follow The Lyric Stage on Twitter and Facebook for their upcoming productions and more.