Betty and The Belrays is playing at the Theatre for the New City located at 155 First Avenue. It runs one hour forty minutes with no intermission. The musical closes on February 17, 2019.
William Electric Black (aka Ian Ellis James) is the playwright. He wrote for Sesame Street for ten years. Ian is the winner of seven Emmy Awards.
The play takes place in Detroit, 1963.
Betty (Pauline Breeze) is listening to the radio when her name is mentioned for requesting a song that is being played. She’s thrilled and turns up the volume when her parents walk in. Her father Joe (John Michael Hersey) and her mother Mary (Gretchen Poole) tell her she has to get a job. Betty says I want to go to college. Joe says I work in a factory I have no money. Mary sees an ad in the newspaper. They are interviewing people for phone operators. She gives Betty tips on how to talk like an operator. Betty wants to be a singer. When they leave Betty turns up the volume on the radio. DJ Sam The Beat (Leverin Williams) says Betty has won tickets to see the group she request the song be played. She has to 12 o’clock to claim the tickets. She has to choose go to the interview or get the tickets. To get the tickets she would go into the Negro section of Detroit, she is white.
When she goes to where the switch board interviews are she meets Gladys (Kennedy Jazz) and Zipgun(Welch). Gladys is hysterical her boyfriend broke up with her. Betty calms her down. Zipgun came out of reform school. They leave and Betty goes to get her tickets. Betty asks Sam The Beat how she get to record music on Soltown records. He tells her tells her to see Mrs. Loretta Jones (Aigner Mizzelle) who will teach them how to sing soul. Betty asks if Belray (Zipgun) and Gladys if they want to be part of her singing group. Mrs. Jones says she will help them but first then have go to a Negro church to get the feeling where soul music comes from. Second she tells them they have to do ironing for three days. This is to help them understand how a Negro feels having to cook, seamstress and laundresses, the only jobs offered to them.
They get the contract to record. The songs that make them famous are “Why Oh Why Must We Do the Segregation” and “My Boyfriend is a Negro”. They perform on Music Today U.S.A. (like Bandstand).
Betty has been gone for a year. When she visits her parents there is a crowd in front of the house. The crowd is screaming things about them liking Negroes. Joe tells her he sent her mother someplace else, he was afraid she’d get hurt. Betty wants to quit, but decides to help her friends fight segregation. She travels with then down south, one states was Mississippi.
What happens, you have to go see the show to find out? This is an amazing show. It has something to over and over again.
The musical has a large cast, some have several roles. They all do an impressive performance.
The band is great! Charlie Caldarola plays a mean set of drums.
This show is good enough to move up town to off Broadway where it belongs!
Some facts that might interest you about Detroit at that time. Dr. Martin Luther King visited Detroit on June 23, 1963. His address was an early version of the “I Have a Dream”. Berry Gordon founded Motown Records 1959. One of the Motown groups that became famous in 1963 was Martha and the Vandellas singing “Dancing in the Street.
Review by Rozabba Radakovich.
Photos by Annazor.
To read a candid interview with the cast, scroll down to the left for photos. Click on photos for this and other shows.