‘I Gotcha!’ takes audience on soul music journey

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New Horizon Theater ended its 2009/2010 season on a high note with a trip down memory lane in “I Gotcha! The Story of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan.”

The production ran from May 21-30 at the Grey Box Theatre in Lawrenceville.

The show was written by Joseph H. Plummer and David Barr III. It was directed by Eileen J. Morris.

SoulClan
THE SOUL CLAN— Joe Tex and the Soul Clan from left: Wilson Pickett, played by Chad Eric Smith; Joe Tex, played by Ijasneem; Ben E. King, played by Charles Timbers; and Solomon Burke, played by Benjamin Blakey.

Morris drew from her childhood memories of hearing Joe Tex’s music on her grandmother’s porch to direct a humorous and music-filled production.

“I remember playing Joe Tex on my grandmamma’s front porch, teaching my cousins the latest Chicago dances and loving the sun falling on my face,” Morris said. “As a matter of fact, my brother and I won a dance contest that earned us $25 each for first place for doing ‘The Bump!’”

“I Gotcha!” The Story of Joe Tex and the Soul Clan,” told the story of singer Joe Tex, played by ljasneem, who went into retirement at the request of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad. His fellow singers and friends: Ben E. King, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett come to town on Tex’s birthday to try and persuade him to reunite with them and put the Soul Clan back together again.

When each member of the short-lived group arrived at Tex’s home for his party, he introduces himself by singing one of his hit songs.

Ben E. King was played by Charles “Chuckie” Timbers, Wilson Pickett was played by Chad Eric Smith and Solomon Burke by Benjamin Blakey. Although the actors’ singing voices left a lot to be desired, the humorous and heartfelt relationship between the singers came across perfectly.

Tex is torn between his love for performing, his commitment to the Nation of Islam and his wife, Bilaliah.

At the play’s opening, the audience is integrated into the performance when the announcer, played by Darnell Lamar Fields, got them to clap to the hit “Fever,” which was Tex. He sold the rights to the song for $300. Other musical gems that had the audience toe-tapping to the music, included “Skinny Legs and All,” “This Magic Moment,” “Midnight Hour” and “Stand By Me.” Inexplicably, the title song, “I Gotcha!” was not performed in the play.

At the height of his career, Tex dropped out of the entertainment scene and began speaking on behalf of the Nation of Islam. He changed his name from Joe Tex to Joe Haziz. That conversion led to financial and personal problems. Tex is haunted by previous relationships with women like Jean, his first love.

Although he is constantly haunted by these women, his love for Bilaliah is just as evident as his love for the members of the Soul Clan.

Bilaliah was played very well by Camille Hairston-Lowman. Blakey played the role of Burke with humorous candor while Smith played Pickett with swagger.

Other members of the cast included Willa Catherine Cotton who played Jean and woman No. 2 and Delana Flowers who played Johnny Mae and woman No. 3.

The play left the audience smiling and reminiscing back to a happier time.

New Horizon will begin its 2010/2011 season with “The Jazz Revue Mixed with Negro Spirituals featuring Levi Barcourt.” The production is set for September.

Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and students. Group tickets are also available.

(For more information, contact New Horizon Theater at 412-431-0773 or newhorizontheater @yahoo.com.)

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