The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, Apple Tree Theatre. In this semiautobiographical musical comedy, written and composed by former Bob Fosse dancer Kirsten Childs, the willfully naive Viveca "Bubbly" Stanton smiles and hoofs her way down the long and twisty road that leads to her Authentic Black Self. Born in 50s LA, she wears a happy face for decades, trying to overcome racism by being really nice. Inevitably, she ends up in New York, "where fucked-up people go to make their dreams come true."
The wall-to-wall show tunes, newly orchestrated by Curtis Moore, put Childs's Broadway background on full display. In "Pass the Flame," about hot-combing hair, beautiful African-style harmonies accompany rituals of cultural submission. In "Granny's Advice" a caddish boyfriend's overbearing grandmother (Angela Grovey) lets Bubbly know, "You can't kill me....I'm living up here in his mind." Grovey has one of the few back-of-the-house voices in the cast, and she's the highlight of the evening.
The performances as a whole are engaging, and Harriet Nzinga Plumpp as the lead couldn't be bubblier. But though Childs carefully shows us how Bubbly came to be such a mess, her metamorphosis from wannabe white girl to Phenomenal Woman comes out of nowhere.