Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope - New York City Article
City Center Encores Off Season presents
“Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”
Created, with words and music, by Micki Grant
131 W 55th St., CityTix (212) 581-1212
Through Saturday July 28
This all-singing, all-dancing production emerged out of Washington D.C.’s Ford Theater in 1971 and then played Broadway for over a thousand performances starting in 1972. On the most basic level, it might be described as representing the African-American community in a revue-like format in much the same way that Hair did around the same time for the hippy-dippy youth subculture (which, let’s be honest, was actually no longer really a subculture by that point). The original was a hoot, but the new production, directed by Savion Glover, is a joy from beginning to end, a fast moving one-act assemblage of music and dance with a game and giving cast.
Micki Grant’s score is a highly authentic, yet completely copasetic combination of virtually every strain of African-American music, from soul and jazz to blues, gospel, and several rewarding numbers cast in a comic calypso beat. (And the piece titled “Billie Holiday Blues,” sung so movingly by Aisha de Haas, is actually more of a Bessie Smith kind of a straight up 12-bar blues with piano - nothing wrong with that.) While Ms. Grant is rarely shy about looking at the less-than-cheerful aspects of contemporary urban life, there’s nothing here that seeks to invoke the dreaded white liberal guilt. It’s all upbeat, tuneful, and positive, paced by Mr. Glover so that it gains momentum as it goes on and seems much too short at 75 minutes or so. By the time you get to the last number, the somewhat more politically-motivated title song, you’re dying for more. In the end, it’s more than a celebration of blackness, but a great big joyful noise about what it means to be human.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)