'The Life' pushes limits with portrayals of struggle, prostitution
On Thursday, the MSU Department of Theatre and MSU School of Music presented the production at Fairchild Theatre in the Auditorium.
The musical followed the story of Queen, a prostitute in New York City in 1981, who moved from Savannah with her boyfriend Fleetwood. The couple's plan had been to make quick money so they could leave the lifestyle and achieve a normal life together.
Unfortunately for Queen, Fleetwood was unreliable and spent the money she made on a drug habit. In her attempts to get out of prostitution, Queen began a downward spiral of making promises and trusting the wrong people.
One of the best things about this musical was its subject matter, which was racy and raw. The story really captured the feelings and emotions of the women in the "oldest profession" and showed how manipulative their pimps can be. It even included language often reserved for movies with an R rating.
"The Life," however, did not judge the characters, but showed what appeared to be an honest glimpse into the struggles they face with each other, with the police and internally.
In part, credit goes to director Rob Roznowski, who went to New York City to research the lives of prostitutes and pimps. His field research was evident in his direction of the musical.
While the story was intriguing, the musical score held up on its end and didn't sound like traditional music from a musical. It was full of mostly upbeat jazz mixed with blues and gospel songs.
Something must also be said about the talent of the actors in the musical. Sharriese Hamilton stood out as Queen with a beautiful, innocent sounding voice and emotional expressions. As a complete contrast, Christopher Austreng commanded the stage as the most powerful pimp, Memphis. His deep, rich voice and physical presence was just right for the role.
A finishing touch was the great set and costumes used in the production. The set was flashy, mimicking the showy night signs and lights, and it was easily adjusted for between scenes. The costumes also balanced on the border of shocking hooker without crossing into vulgarity.
MSU is now the first university to perform "The Life" since its first production in 1997. Unfortunately, it only had a one weekend run at MSU, which was much too short. Hopefully the success of "The Life" will encourage the Department of Theatre and School of Music to produce more musicals and plays with adult themes.
If a college university can't push the limits of theater with similar productions, who can?