Witness Uganda

Critics

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92 %

Reviews: 13

Audience

LemonMeter

Reviews: 0

The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts presents the West Coast premiere of The Wallis' production of WITNESS UGANDA, a groundbreaking documentary musical by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews starring twelve-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, Jamar Williams (Wild Goose Dreams), Amber Iman (Hamilton) and Emma Hunton (Wicked), directed by Matthews with music direction by Gould, from Tuesday, February 5 – Saturday, February 23, 2019, in The Wallis's Lovelace Studio Theater. After a successful Off-Broadway run, this new and revised production documents the story of a man battling to find his place in a world full of injustice and inhumanity.

In addition to Ledisi (Rain Lady/Church Lady), Jamar Williams (Griffin), Amber Iman (Joy) and Emma Hunton (Ryan), the cast features Kameron Richardson (Jacob), Naärai (Grace), Sha'leah Nikole (Eden), Dexter Darden (Ibrahim), Jordan Barrow (Ronny), Jai'Len Josey (Vocalist/Understudy for Rain Lady/Church Lady) and Antwone Barnes, Kennan D Washington and Thurzday in the Ensemble. Ledisi will not perform on the evening of Friday, February 15 and for both shows on Sunday, February 17. In her absence, Jai'Len Josey will play the roles of Rain Lady/Church Lady. Witness Uganda is choreographed by Abdur-Rahim Jackson, with music supervision by Remy Kurs, set design by Connor MacPhee, lighting design by David Hernandez, costumes by Carlton Jones and sound design by Martin Carillo. Assistant Director is Mark Jacob Chaitin and Stage Manager is Sara Sahin. Casting is by Chad Murnane of Binder Casting.

Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church's condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever. From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, “is changing the world even possible?”

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Reviews

"Conner MacPhee's set is fluid, following as needed and stable when required. Carlton Jones' costumes are a joy to see – especially at the end of the show, when color and life become one. David Hernandez' lighting, Martin Carrillo's sound, and Abdur-Rahim Jackson's choreography will make your head spin. This is an unusual production, but also a show worth seeing. Just try to keep your feet from tapping and your hands from clapping to keep the rhythm alive."

sweet - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


"I recommend seeing the compelling talent at The Wallis, and I was moved to want to know more about the orphans of Uganda (more than 2 million in a country of an estimated 35 million people), but the creators' need to rethink their vision if they want more witnesses."

sweet - Tony Frankel - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Griffin is forever troubled by the fear that whatever good intentions he may have held amount in the end to little more than Western neocolonialism, the idea that people from America know better than the Ugandans how to run their society and fix their lives. However, he sees how “his” orphans have been effectively left to their own devices, without schooling of any kind or healthy prospects for the future. At the same time there are other forces competing for dominance not only in Uganda but in many other countries: especially the American fundamentalist Christian communities that not only send proselytizers and money to make some brands of African Christianity so intolerant, but also seduce (read, bribe) legislators to pass laws such as one in Uganda not long back, which threatened to make homosexuality a capital crime. The role of civic society and private philanthropy in transforming government policy is highly debatable—often welcome, but as often as not, intrusive and patronizing. Each case must be studied independently. The main factor should always be, Does the country invite such aid and how much control does the country exert once the aid starts coming in? We may never know, for instance, exactly how big a part the North American evangelical movement played in the recent failure of the Cuban Constitutional reform to include same-gender marriage; apparently there was significant opposition coming from their Cuban counterpart churches."

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"The ending is clever with a spool of wire that unwinds to unite and tie each character together."

sweet - Jill Weinlein - On Stage Blog - ...read full review


"itness Uganda does not shy away from telling hard truths about life in Africa, but that's not to say the show is a downer. On the contrary, it emphasizes the humanity, courage and potential of most Ugandans, a people ground down by one dishonest, brutal regime after another. "

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Cynthia Citron
"A dozen African-American artists begin by blasting out an enthusiastic melodious chant in one of the Ugandan languages, followed by a spirited dance that even Jerome Robbins would envy. All flailing arms and flying legs, accompanied by more chanting."

sweet - Cynthia Citron - Santa Monica Daily Press - ...read full review


"But in the end the performances are what make “Witness Uganda” worth the ticket. The actors who play the Ugandan orphans make the charmingly written roles their own, and everyone in the ensemble, including but not limited to the Grammy-winning artist Ledisi, can really sing."

sweet-sour - Margaret Gray - LA Times - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Inspiring and illuminating in equal measure, Witness Uganda proves there is light even in the darkest of places and hearts. Expect your spirit to soar."

sweet - Steven Stanley - StageSceneLA - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal
"WITNESS UGANDA may still be searching for the best way to tell its inspiring story but it is a worthy journey we do want to take. Clarity, and a stronger point of view, would make all the difference."

sweet-sour - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld - ...read full review


"...But the music direction and ultimately the story attract our attention and eventually win our admiration for the work and its good heart."

sweet - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


"This is a production not to miss, perfectly set in an intimate space that can't help but draw one in to the urgent, uttermost message of the story."

sweet - Bonnie Priever - Curtain Up - ...read full review


Stephen Fife
"So let me be clear that I have recommended this show based on a few outstanding elements. The costumes designed by Carlton Jones are spectacular, authentic and often pure genius. The African patterns and colors can be simply intoxicating, especially when they are swirling around the stage in the pulsating choreography of Abdur-Rahim Jackson. While the movements and steps make use of many by-now-familiar elements of African dance, Jackson has provided enough variation and originality to keep everything exciting, and the limberness and reckless abandon of the dancers is reminiscent of the best of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater — for good reason, since Jackson was a principal dancer there and has created original ballets for them. - RECOMMENDED"

sweet - Stephen Fife - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Patrick Chavis
"Witness Uganda playing now at the Wallis is a unique musical with a style and sound – all its own. It's made even more interesting because of the catchy songs, choreography and phenomenal singers in this production."

sweet - Patrick Chavis - LA Theatre Bites - ...read full review


"Conner MacPhee's set is fluid, following as needed and stable when required. Carlton Jones' costumes are a joy to see – especially at the end of the show, when color and life become one. David Hernandez' lighting, Martin Carrillo's sound, and Abdur-Rahim Jackson's choreography will make your head spin. This is an unusual production, but also a show worth seeing. Just try to keep your feet from tapping and your hands from clapping to keep the rhythm alive."

sweet - Elaine Mura - LA Splash - ...read full review


"I recommend seeing the compelling talent at The Wallis, and I was moved to want to know more about the orphans of Uganda (more than 2 million in a country of an estimated 35 million people), but the creators' need to rethink their vision if they want more witnesses."

sweet - Tony Frankel - Stage and Cinema - ...read full review


Eric A Gordon
"Griffin is forever troubled by the fear that whatever good intentions he may have held amount in the end to little more than Western neocolonialism, the idea that people from America know better than the Ugandans how to run their society and fix their lives. However, he sees how “his” orphans have been effectively left to their own devices, without schooling of any kind or healthy prospects for the future. At the same time there are other forces competing for dominance not only in Uganda but in many other countries: especially the American fundamentalist Christian communities that not only send proselytizers and money to make some brands of African Christianity so intolerant, but also seduce (read, bribe) legislators to pass laws such as one in Uganda not long back, which threatened to make homosexuality a capital crime. The role of civic society and private philanthropy in transforming government policy is highly debatable—often welcome, but as often as not, intrusive and patronizing. Each case must be studied independently. The main factor should always be, Does the country invite such aid and how much control does the country exert once the aid starts coming in? We may never know, for instance, exactly how big a part the North American evangelical movement played in the recent failure of the Cuban Constitutional reform to include same-gender marriage; apparently there was significant opposition coming from their Cuban counterpart churches."

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


"The ending is clever with a spool of wire that unwinds to unite and tie each character together."

sweet - Jill Weinlein - On Stage Blog - ...read full review


"itness Uganda does not shy away from telling hard truths about life in Africa, but that's not to say the show is a downer. On the contrary, it emphasizes the humanity, courage and potential of most Ugandans, a people ground down by one dishonest, brutal regime after another. "

sweet - Willard Manus - Total Theater - ...read full review


Cynthia Citron
"A dozen African-American artists begin by blasting out an enthusiastic melodious chant in one of the Ugandan languages, followed by a spirited dance that even Jerome Robbins would envy. All flailing arms and flying legs, accompanied by more chanting."

sweet - Cynthia Citron - Santa Monica Daily Press - ...read full review


"But in the end the performances are what make “Witness Uganda” worth the ticket. The actors who play the Ugandan orphans make the charmingly written roles their own, and everyone in the ensemble, including but not limited to the Grammy-winning artist Ledisi, can really sing."

sweet-sour - Margaret Gray - LA Times - ...read full review


Steven Stanley
"Inspiring and illuminating in equal measure, Witness Uganda proves there is light even in the darkest of places and hearts. Expect your spirit to soar."

sweet - Steven Stanley - StageSceneLA - ...read full review


Ellen Dostal
"WITNESS UGANDA may still be searching for the best way to tell its inspiring story but it is a worthy journey we do want to take. Clarity, and a stronger point of view, would make all the difference."

sweet-sour - Ellen Dostal - BroadwayWorld - ...read full review


"...But the music direction and ultimately the story attract our attention and eventually win our admiration for the work and its good heart."

sweet - Dany Margolies - Daily News - ...read full review


"This is a production not to miss, perfectly set in an intimate space that can't help but draw one in to the urgent, uttermost message of the story."

sweet - Bonnie Priever - Curtain Up - ...read full review


Stephen Fife
"So let me be clear that I have recommended this show based on a few outstanding elements. The costumes designed by Carlton Jones are spectacular, authentic and often pure genius. The African patterns and colors can be simply intoxicating, especially when they are swirling around the stage in the pulsating choreography of Abdur-Rahim Jackson. While the movements and steps make use of many by-now-familiar elements of African dance, Jackson has provided enough variation and originality to keep everything exciting, and the limberness and reckless abandon of the dancers is reminiscent of the best of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater — for good reason, since Jackson was a principal dancer there and has created original ballets for them. - RECOMMENDED"

sweet - Stephen Fife - Stage Raw - ...read full review


Patrick Chavis
"Witness Uganda playing now at the Wallis is a unique musical with a style and sound – all its own. It's made even more interesting because of the catchy songs, choreography and phenomenal singers in this production."

sweet - Patrick Chavis - LA Theatre Bites - ...read full review