Among other things, the show holds up a mirror to those in the black community who strive for whiteness. The main character, Max Disher (played by Dixon), decides to lighten his skin after meeting a white woman, Helen Givens (Jennifer Damiano), at the Savoy Ballroom on a night out. That he would be willing to sacrifice his identity after a chance encounter with the woman is a long-standing criticism of some black men: as much as they are supported by black women, they still see dating white women as the ultimate. social price.
The musical also delves into the internal baggage that comes with Blackness, the weight of external pressure exerted by those who are like you but don’t know your circumstances. How do you stay true to yourself without disappointing your peers? And what does it mean to be? real Black right?
“For me, the lesson to be learned is that there is a price,” Dixon said. “There are costs associated with the choices we force each other to make to become happy, accepted members of society. It’s time to take a closer look at those costs. Is this the construct in which we as a human population can really rise and grow and evolve?”
“Black No More” begins amicably, with a flurry of black and white ensemble dancers sliding in unison across the stage, around a barber chair used for the skin-changing experiment. Outside walks Trotter, who plays Junius Crookman, the doctor performing the procedure. He paints Harlem as a deceptive place where dreams don’t always come true. “You find all things… both high and low,” he says in his opening monologue. “Here Where Every Black Baby Goes” attempt grow.”
The music of “Black No More” largely fits this era and smoothly transitions from swing jazz to big band to soul. Some of the verses have a rap-like character – Trotter is the lead singer of the Roots, after all – but his writing here explores a wide variety of musical textures, evoking old Harlem while conveying the full spectrum of music. After Max goes white, the music becomes softer and more delicate, almost like bluegrass or folky in a way. Towards the end of the show, two white women sing about what sounds like an R&B song, a genre typically associated with black women. “Black No More” is full of this kind of cross-pollination.
“I’ve always been really into letting the universe write the songs so the material can work itself out,” said Trotter. “These songs represent the different elements of black music. What we came up with is something that feels like an education in the evolution of black music, which at its core would be the evolution of American music.”