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PLAYS

The information provided here on Oscar Brown, Jr’s  musicals, is meant to get things started.  Anyone interested in learning more in depth information about any of the productions listed, should please let us know by clicking the contact button above to send us your inquiry.  Please be sure to check back here at OscarBrownJr.Org as there will be regular updates to this section of the page.

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KICKS  & CO.  1960

Is a swinging, satanic tale of corruption.  The devillish main character Mr Kicks infiltrates the campus of an all negro southern collage during the “sit-in-60’s”  Big musical numbers and big fun! 

KICKS & CO. is a major musical produced in 1960 at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago.    It is an "ahead of its time" story of the sit-in movement and of Mr. Kicks, “Satan’s sinful servant” who has targeted two of its leaders for corruption.  With the cooperation of “Orgy, The Magazine for Men,” Mr. Kicks descends on the campus of “Freedman University:  Down South” with an assortment of dirty deals to lay, in particular on two leaders of the student body, June Young and Ernest Black.  The action then switches to Chicago as Mr. Kicks attracts the pair with dangerous temptations to which they relate, not always for the best.

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CRECIE   1961

Is a tender love story set against the harsh realities of chattel slavery, told entirely in verse and song, makes this a unique and poignant piece of American Theater.  Set in the deep south of 1830 CRECIE sings of this nation’s soul. 

CRECIE is an operetta written in iambic pentameter verse (rhymed quatrains) in two acts.  Set in 1830 in South Carolina’ it is the love story of Crecie and Cato who are the slaves of Colonel Stacey Talbot on his large cotton plantation.  Their simple act of falling in love puts them in deadly conflict with America’s “peculiar institution”.   The ensuing tale involving members of both races is powerful and poignant, with a strong musical score.  CRECIE premiered at Malcolm X College (Chicago) and was later staged at Howard University (Washington) with an additional  “little theater” presentation in New York.

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IN DE BEGINNIN’    1977     

Is told entirely in verse and could easily fit into the category of a “Rap Opera.”  Based on the Book of Genesis, Oscar Brown, Jr’s recreation of the beginning of creation is in lyrical, hip, rhyming dialect taking a droll look at the battle of the sexes.            

                              

IN DE BEGINNIN’ is the first of three verse musicals based on the Biblical story of The Creation. This piece tells of Adam and Eve and events leading to their eviction from paradise for disobeying De Lord.  Their encounters with De Devil and De Snake are described in a rhythmic sermon by De Rev, a down home preacher in a dialect of such eloquence the characters come to life in a style that brings charm and humor to a tragic tale.   Produced initially in Chicago, and subsequently in New York, Memphis, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia and Buffalo.

 

RAISIN’ CAIN        1978 

Another verse musical concerning the first murder; when Cain kills his brother Able.  Their parents, Adam and Eve, must deal with the aftermath, confused by the Lord’s permission of the hideous act, and seriously questioning His righteousness.  Cain’s banishment to the Land of Nod is preceded by his meeting the Devil, who congratulates and recruits the killer to commit other acts from his “catalogue of crimes”.  Moral motives are vigorously disputed in the rhyme and reason of this piece, produced experimentally at Chicago State University in 1984. 

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COVENANTS   1979

Abraham and Sarah are the central characters in the third verse play of the ”Genesis Series” Their travail and triumph in establishing themselves and their faith in hostile new environments are told with the touch of comedy that characterizes this trilogy.  While this is not a musical, the piece lends itself to the insertion of some song and dance.

It concerns the character and the development of Judaism from its inception, in a paraphrasing of the Bible’s First Book, told with wit and wisdom. 

MAPLE LEAF     1986

MAPLE LEAF has a strong classical quality. Brown created lyrics to five of Scott Joplin’s own compositions, to tell the tragic story of the “King of  the Ragtime Writers.”   The composer, Joplin, who has gone mad, is in his bed in the Manhattan State Mental Hospital where he fantasizes on his life and career as he lies dying of syphilis and disappointment.  Visited in reality by his wife Lottie, and in fantasy by a vagabond spirit called Ragtime. Scott hallucinates about the times and characters with whom his creative career has been involved.   Additional songs in the classical ragtime style were created for this lively book musical based on research by Janeth Rosamond of New York.

BUCK WHITE    1969

A comic power struggle absorbs the members of an Inner City Organization as its members alternately tease and intimidate each other and their audience until the appearance

of their charismatic leader, Buck White,

gives their meeting a more serious meaning. 

OBJ created the Book, lyric and music for

BUCK WHITE, which he adapted from the original stage play called BIG TIME BUCK WHITE, by Joseph Dolan Tuotti.

This is the musical in which OBJ cast Muhammed Ali in the title role off

Broadway, in 1969.

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BLACK STARS   1975

The story of two talented Black actors trying to achieve major Hollywood stardom is told in a musical drama that is based on the flamboyant lifestyles of America’s motion picture capital.  A musical that sings and rings with a not always beautiful truth. 

This musical is co-written by Oscar’s wife, and show business partner, Jean Pace. BLACK STARS  captures a Hollywood story told in this major book musical, concerning the efforts of two Negro actors to play the Hollywood game.  Herb, a talented newcomer, is assisted by his mentor Leo a veteran character actor, in preparation for a movie role they think will make Herb, “The 1st Big Negro Matinee Idol.”  Their disappointment when most of Herb’s well coached business is cut from the picture that results in Herb’s giving Leo a hallucinogenic that trips him out into flying off his second floor balcony.  Leo’s wrists are severely injured and he now refuses to associate with Herb.  Guilt ridden, Herb loses his mind, steals a car and is jailed in Beverly Hills, where he hangs himself.   It is Hollywood in the early sixties, high on mind blown militancy, marijuana and LSD.   

CYBERSOUL - A Computer Generated Musical

In CYBERSOUL, Beah Acker carries all her worldly possessions including her laptop  in two paper bags.  Beah  spends her nights in a doorway next to “Vincent Electronics'' shop with a video wall of a dozen television screens (The Webbers) occupying most of its large display window. Beah is a poet who could only find work which grew too detestable and she lost her job, leaving her homeless.  The laptop’s (Dot Comedy) memory holds all of Beah’s poetry. In Dot’s memory all of Beah’s life is locked away from the world. While Beah dozes, Dot is visited by the recruiter for a renegade computer organization called,  RebootersDot is alarmed that a new generation of computers with highly sophisticated brains, but no souls, can only create ultimate cyber insanity.  Dot’s questions concerning the soul, lead the poet/programmer Beah to a divine conclusion that research into, and development of a “cybersoul” is her life’s work, to be performed on the WorldWideWeb

 

This is a piece to be performed on television, in motion pictures, theater, on record or as a cD rom presentation. lt seems suitable for animation, and technology permitting, ought to be adaptable for on-line presentation via the internet. lts musical performances and poetic presentations should include jazz, rhythm and blues and rap rhythms

REV REX  

(REX  EDISON)          1975       

The ancient Greek legend of Oedipus Rex is reset in the period of Reconstruction following the United States Civil War.  A fair skinned Negro preacher/politician, Rex Edison, has wed a local matriarch, Josie and become both the religious and political pillar of a southern town recently plagued with violent attacks by the new Ku Klux Klan.  Rex, at the suggestion of the governor, to whom he sends for help, leads an investigation into the slaying years back, of a prominent local white planter.  This results in a rash of disclosures that prove Rex in fact to be not only the white planter’s killer but also “the motherfucker,” a blind sooth-sayer Tyree has publicly declared he was.

IGNORAPA    1977 

The Ignorapa is a two-headed monster.  A dinosaur of ignorance and apathy who preys on unsuspecting students from his lair in “the pits,” where he presides over a negative gang which includes Mean, Greed, The Pushy People, and various dealers in dangerous habits. The hero is rescued from the Ignorapa and his cohorts by an adult friend and his own Ego and its sense of self worth.

 
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D.O.M.E. - a genre of OBJ theater.

Oscar Brown, Jr. defined one of his stage production styles as: a D.O.M.E. which stands for, a Dramatic Organization of Musical Expression. Similar to the traditional “musical review” in theater, being song after song, after song, OBJ developed this device or genre if you will, as a way to organize and arrange his various poems and compositions to effectively produce a full musical theatrical piece.  In most instances of OBJ’s D.O.M.E., there is a bare minimum or sometimes the total absence of character dialog - instead the song lyrics and their arrangement move the story along.  

JOURNEY THROUGH FOREVER         1980         

Is told entirely in verse and song.  JTF is a slice of the life of an old man as he confronts the relentless passage of time.  Attended by a compassionate nurse, he is also visited by visions of time in the form of four attractive females.

Ben, an ailing elder, is central to this DOME (Dramatic Organization of Musical Expressions) about aging.  Attended by a compassionate Nurse, he is visited in fantasy by AllTheTime, four female figures that taunt, tease and titillate him.   Troubled by his senior citizenship, Ben, largely confined to a wheelchair is encouraged by his Nurse to have a positive attitude.   The conflict between the passage of time and Ben’s sense of well-being is the drama described by this musical mural, without dialogue.  The work was produced at ETA in Chicago, in its 1984 premiere.

 

A YEAR    1975

A dozen songs, one for each month, plus a thirteenth, that reprises through the four seasons, take us on an annual journey of great musical variety. 

“A Year” has a song for every month, and one for the four seasons. The thirteen song score of this D.O.M.E., is a moving musical montage about the annual trip from its January genesis to its December departure.  The words and music of these thirteen selections give “A Year” its drama as they carry us from stark winter, through the rains and changes of spring. into the beauty and heat of summer, the decline of the fall and back to winter.  “A Year” is, therefore, a metaphor, melodically and lyrically mirroring life. In addition to solo and choral singing, “A Year” lends itself to dance and to outdoor photography, whether still or motion pictures.  The story can be told in multimedia, either with great simplicity or quite lavishly.

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IT’S ABOUT TIME  1991

Father and son-Oscar Brown, Jr and Oscar Brown, III-combine to make this musical study of time.  Set to the constant tick of a clock, and accompanied only by the contrabass violin, picked and bowed by the younger, the two Browns offer an entertaining variety of lyrical insights concerning the time of all our lives. See the OscarBrownJr.Legacy YouTube channel for footage of Oscar & Bobo in IT’S ABOUT TIME. 

SLICED APPLE  1983

New York City, Manhattan Island and Harlem provide the focus for this musically guided tour of New York and one of its most famous and fascinating communities. “Sliced Apple” is a DOME (Dramatic Organization of Musical Expressions) examining “Greater New York” and its “New York Neurosis”.  From song to song, subway riders become performing straphangers with a view and review of life in The Big Apple. Initially presented at the supper club, Carlos I in New York City, the show moves rapidly through several musical genres including, jazz, blues, and ballads. SLICED APPLE also laces humor in its patchwork of pictures in song, and provides room for a variety of vibrant dance.

ALEGRIA

A musical trip to Brazil via some of its typical songs translated from Portugese to English.  From the dancing streets of Rio de Janeiro during carnival, to the beaches of Bahia, we hear the insistent summons of Sambas provided by ALEGRIA-which in English means joy. This is another of Oscar Brown Jr’s D.O.M.E.s

MERRY GO MINSTREL   1977

Provides educational entertainment, or according to Oscar Brown, Jr., “edutainment,” for elementary school students who also make up its cast.  An hour long program, it offers delightful melodies in the popular idiom which teaches behavior as well as the ABC’s and the importance of reading.

While living on Chicago’s Westside, OBJ created and directed this D.O.M.E. for the children of Mary McCloud Bethune Elementary School.

GREAT NITTY GRITTY   1980

Tells the story of a gang member who is offered a chance to rehabilitate himself and play a positive rather than a negative role in life.  This is a musical as current as the daily headlines about inner-city youth.

Oscar Brown, Jr. referred to GREAT NITTY GRITTY as his “miracle musical.”  This full length theater piece falls in the category of a D.O.M.E.: dramatic organization of musical expression. Essentially, GREAT NITTY GRITTY is a musical review that takes a unique look at Chicago.  

At the base of a statue of Jean Baptist Pointe DuSable, Willie falls mortally wounded from a gang related shooting. DuSable, in spirit, offers to save Willie in exchange for his help as a peacemaker.  The offer leads to an odyssey that takes the young gang banger all over town as he evaluates the Windy City seeing both the bright lights of downtown and the low lights in the hood.

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"Oscar Brown Jr is one of the first, with an international reputation, to put his

ART at the service of OUR people!!"   

 

-Owen Lawson