Issues included, this is a feel-good show--a show about feeling good about being who you are. The music (by Childs, along with the lyrics and book) is upbeat and catchy, a mix of pop, jazz, and Motown. The lyrics are smart and sassy. LaChanze does a good job playing kid-Viveca, gives her a welcomed maturity when she moves to New York, and a welcomed grounded-ness when she sheds her skin. The rest of the ensemble is energetic, and excellent at making quick transitions between an array of characters. It was a treat to see a cast reflect not only a whole range of skin colors, but also of body types.
Director Wilfredo Medina has been with Bubbly Black Girl... since its earliest inception at Dixon Place. And it shows, in his caring direction and in his sensitivity to the show's subtle shifts in tone. A.C. Ciulla, fresh off of Footloose, does a commendable job choreographing--both musical numbers and transitions--in the limited space of Playwrights Horizons' stage (which requires the musicians to be behind the backdrop rather than fore-grounded in a pit). Gallo's set elements are, as always, artfully spare and consistently on-spot.
Closing out a season that began with the hit musical James Joyce's The Dead, Playwrights Horizons has produced (in association with Wind Dancer Theatre) another new musical which, with any luck, may also have a life beyond its initial run. Childs has written a sincere, smart, celebratory show. She's also succeeded in sharing a story that is not always heard in the musical theater world, and in leaving audiences, hopefully, more open-minded and, certainly, smiling.