Born For This: A New Musical
At Emerson Majestic
Is Musically Uplifting
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Born For This: A New Musical now playing at the Emerson Majestic Theater in Boston is the story of BeBe and CeCe Winans. The brother and sister are the youngest members of the Winans family and a number of their ten siblings, comprise the Gospel singing group The Winans.
Raised in a religious and loving family, BeBe and CeCe were not part of the group their brothers formed, but in 1982 CeCe was invited to audition for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise The Lord Network in Pineville, North Carolina. When CeCe was accepted her parents agreed to let her move south from Detroit on the condition BeBe would accompany her. Before long BeBe would also join the network as a singer.
Born For This has a compelling story about the rise of the two young Winans and the success and conflicts they faced; however, the musical numbers overshadow that story. This is not a bad thing as the score, written by BeBe Winans, is powerful, spiritual, and uplifting.
Donald Webber Jr. plays BeBe and Loren Lott takes on the role of CeCe. Both are fine musical talents and deliver their numbers exquisitely. Milton Craig Nealy as Pop Winans nearly steals the show with his rich voice which is filled with warmth and strength. His rendition of I Got A New Home is something to behold.
Chaz Pofahl and Kirsten Wyatt play Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Mr. Pofahl gives us a sympathetic Jim Bakker who was the first white televangelist to have African Americans included in broadcasts. The Bakker’s received multiple threats when they first featured the Winans, but they did not back down and to this day BeBe feels he and his sister were treated very well by the couple whose ministry ended up mired in scandal. Unfortunately, Ms Wyatt’s Tammy Faye is played more in caricature, and while quite funny, diminishes the deeper story.
That story is a good one and deals with so many issues such as struggling with what success truly is, the conflict with monetary gain while retaining one’s integrity, the strength of family, faith in God, and the flawed nature of even the best intentioned people. But as I said, the music takes front row in this production.
At times I got the feeling I was at a taping of American Idol, as each cast member stepped forward and gave every number their all while the audience cheered them on. The theater was filled with energy. There is no lack of musical talent on the stage of the Emerson Majestic.
While the entire cast is strong I would just like to mention a couple of others who were particularly moving. Nita Whitaker as Mom Winans and Brad Raymond who plays Ronald Winans both have great presence as well as great voices. Both were deeply moving.
Though lacking in dramatic tension, the story is still a touching one that will leave you feeling good. The music will leave you smiling.
It will be interesting to see how well a musical that shows Evangelical Christians in a good light is received here in the Northeast, but it is hard not to feel positive after being filled with the wonderful spirit and music of BeBe Winans.
Born For This: A New Musical
Presented by Emerson Arts
Now through July 15
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston
Bostontickets [at] artsemerson [dot] org