TADA! YOUTH THEATER's original production, The History Mystery, is running now at the TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th Str. 2nd Floor). With book by Janine Nina Trevens, music by Eric Rockwell and lyrics by Margaret Rose, The History Mystery is directed by Ms. Trevens. Starring members of TADA!'s Resident Youth Ensemble, this limited engagement runs now through February 19th.
The History Mystery is a musical time travel adventure. Through the magic of Study Hall, three teenagers (played by Maddy Abrahams, Romello Rodriguez and Elsa Chung) meet Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt as well as other American luminaries as children. Our protagonist teens learn how their actions today can impact the people they might become tomorrow, as they help these luminaries to find their voices and become icons.
I completely understand and appreciate the undertaking Trevens, Rockwell and Rose take on with The History Mystery. History is an oft-underappreciated subject and, like Art, often completely pushed aside in favor of Math and Science. The History Mystery creative team does a good job expressing the importance of History education and the impact it can have on today's children. I did question a couple of plot points. Other than Eleanor Roosevelt, I felt like the choice of female luminaries was thin at best. I also felt that the plot point revolving around one of the teen's grandmother and a Japanese interment camp was a bit tasteless.
Artistically, The History Mystery is solid. The costume designs successfully expressed each time period the teens encountered. The set design accomplished this as well. The music was pleasant and there was nice mixture of multimedia as well. If anything, the scene transitions could have been tightened.
The cast included children between the ages of 8 and 18 from the New York City area. These kids are all members of TADA!'s Resident Youth Ensemble, participating in free year-round personal and professional development. TADA! has been recognized by the President's Committee on Arts & Humanities as well as the Drama Desk for its strides in Arts Education.
Overall, this is not a show you are going to find yourself going to, unless you have a relative in the cast. Nonetheless, several points should be made about the children's performance. For a cast, where not one person was over the age of 18, their singing and dancing was good. A definite bright point was the Suffragette number, "Our Fight Isn't Over Yet." Donna Faizon was adorable as the Suffragette Leader and the dance number was tight. Another strong point was the Martin Luther King scene. Derek Johnson, who plays a young Martin Luther King Jr., plays the famed Civil Rights leader with restraint and empathy far beyond the actor's ten years of age. He found a lovely humanity to this famed icon without forecasting King's ultimate fate.
The show runs less than an hour and there is no intermission. Tickets are still available for the entirety of the run. They are $25 for adults and $15 for students. Check out www.tadatheater.com/currentseason.asp for more information.