Alive!, currently playing at the Dempsey Theater in Harlem, is an upbeat, feel-good musical revue featuring the talents of performers who are all 55 years old or older. The show is a combination of classic music and storytelling from the show’s cast members, and the song selection ranges from gospel and R&B to jazz and Broadway standards. Alive! opens with a gospel medley, taking it to church in a good way, before moving into a look back at the golden age of Harlem and ending the first half with “To Dream the Impossible Dream.” The second half gets into R&B and more modern pop music including “She Works Hard for the Money” and “I Will Always Love You,” and the second half ends with a medley that includes “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Revue shows like Alive! tend to succeed or fail based on the talents of their casts, and fortunately, the cast of Alive! is more than up to the task. The choreography is kept simple which serves the performers well and allows the audience to enjoy the vocal performances. I was shocked to learn that most of the cast were not professional singers but rather very talented amateurs. One of the female storytellers in the show shares how she had auditioned for Mama, I Want to Sing and got a call-back, but she chose not to go. She wonders if her life might have been different if she had gone to her call-back, but rather than dwell on the past, she celebrates that she gets to live that dream now.
My only major criticism of the show was the stage lighting, specifically the moving spotlights on the front of the stage. I found the spotlights distracting, and a simpler lighting design would have better served the performers and the overall look of the show.
The perfect word to describe Alive! is celebration. This show is a celebration of music and life, and more importantly, it is a celebration of age and wisdom. At the performance I attended, they opened the show by asking the audience to raise their hands if they were older than 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 years old. During the final curtain call, each cast member stepped forward and shared their age, except for one who quipped that his age was “no one’s business.” In a culture that is so obsessed with youth, I found it refreshing to see a show that celebrates performers who are 55 years old or older. Alive! reflects their lives, the joys and tribulations that they have survived, and it sings out a mighty hallelujah that they have plenty of living and learning left to go.
Alive! is currently playing at the Dempsey Theater, located at 127 West 127th Street in Harlem, NY. Proceeds from Alive! will benefit The Mama Foundation for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased through SmartTix.com or by calling 212-280-1045. For information on special rates for groups, go to www.mamafoundation.org. The performance schedule is available below:
May 31 at 2:00 PM
June 7 at 2:00 PM
June 14 at 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM
Subway directions to the Dempsey Theater: Take the 2 or 3 express trains to 125th Street or the A,B,C,D trains to 125th Street/Lenox Avenue; walk two blocks north, turn left on 127th Street
Bus directions to the Dempsey Theater: M2, M3, M7 to 127th Street