THE STORY OF BLACK JASMINE
OPERA America, Manhattan
Saturday, August 12th
When we last spoke with Xi Lyu, founder of Black Jasmine, we were anxiously awaiting the debut of the band’s musical, The Story of Black Jasmine, to hit the New York City stage. Xi had dropped several hints of what we might be able to expect, but nothing really prepared us until we had the chance to see the show. What awaited us was a delightful, heartfelt performance from 3 gifted artists— who clearly have created something very special.
Partnering with the Fudan University Alumni Association (USA) and US China Press, Black Jasmine gave their first performance to a captive and embracing audience this past Saturday night in the intimate space at OPERA America in Manhattan. This very first show of theirs delivered a musical tale of love, longing, heartache and friendship—an often complex story that many of us can relate to all too well.
When putting together this show, Xi and Black Jasmine members–Dan Corica and Kathleen Raab– decided to take their songs and create a two-act drama around them. With original tunes, including the alluring “Black Jasmine” and “Waiting for Your Return”, as well as a multitude of beautiful covers of beloved hits, Xi knew exactly how to pull at the heartstrings of all in attendance and produce a unique musical that makes you at times– dig deep in your heart, laugh and even shed tears.
The opening scene is set with a simple baby grand piano on the stage in a warmly lit setting of blues and pinks in the small, but packed space. Corica (in the role of “Bill”) belts out the opening number of “I Won’t Give Up” –a beautiful cover of the Jason Mraz smash, setting the tone for the heartache that was about to be musically conveyed, as well as showcasing Corica’s vocal stylings.
Feeling the longing he has for his old love, “Jasmine” (played by the luminous Lyu), Corica’s powerful voice grabs you from the start and easily convinces. Enter “Lily”, played by the charming Raab, who has just turned down a proposal from “Bill”. Though she loves him, “Lily” knows he wouldn’t love her the way he does “Jasmine”—her once best friend. Raab’s beautiful performance of “Tempest” then makes us realize we’re now about to hear about a possibly complicated love triangle and we’re hooked.
Their intertwined story is told through song, and clever choregraphed dance arrangements by the notable Shan Y Chuang. Black Jasmine used the space not only to sing & dance, but to also engage with the audience, as shown in “Here’s to Us”—where I received a high-five from a lit up, joyful Xi, when she came frolicking through the crowd!
There were many highlights—ranging from the flirtatious “Shape of You” to a gripping acapella version of “Say Something”, to “Somebody That I Used to Know”—where Xi’s soaring voice and Raab’s complimenting vocals were on full display, to the trio singing “The Book of Love”—which rips at your heart and emotions.
Lyu, Corica and Raab, are individually & collectively, talented and accomplished—as well as a musical act that we look forward to hearing more from, as they continue to work on their symphonic journey!
We won’t reveal the ending of this magical little gem, but be sure to catch Black Jasmine later this fall when they perform at Joe’s Pub! We could all use a little mystery, romance and musical excitement and this harmonious trio will certainly provide it!
Director: Xi Lyu
Music director: Xi Lyu
Choreographer: Shan Y Chuang
Soundboard Operator: Peter Gamble