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‘Raisin’ gets another moment in the sun

Astoria Performing Arts Center’s “Raisin” is being revived four decades since the last New York production. The musical revival will feature choreographer Tamrin Goldberg, left, and actress Sarita Amani Nash, right.
Photo by Terrance O’Kane
By Alexandra Simon

At long last, they’re raising “Raisin” again.

It’s been more than four decades since the Tony Award-winning musical was last staged in the city, but a revival of the melodic adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play “A Raisin in the Sun,” is set to begin a limited run May 4 at the Astoria Performing Arts Center.

The arts center’s musical director feels it’s long overdue.

“I am very excited because it’s such an important story. The play is well known and has been revived over and over, but few people know that the musical exists, and it’s very a strong adaptation,” said Dev Bondarin, artistic director of astoria performing arts center and director of the production. “In the adaptation, the characters get to show deep, emotional moments adapted from play.”

The themes in the musical are also still very relevant, said Bondarin.

“There’s a satirical song in the second act and it feels so relevant to 2017 in ways that people don’t think about,” said Bondarin. “Presenting this piece today is important for everyone, but I also think for people who think we’ve made more strides. This is an important reminder that, yes, we have, but everyone needs to stay aware of what’s going on, because the lives of these characters matter no less today.”

The musical comeback follows the original 1973 musical, which ran on Broadway until 1975. Featuring a 10-member cast and other minor background characters, the only notable changes in the story will be in the characters, said Bondarin.

“The text and music is all the same but it’s a new cast of actors, and they’re bringing their 2017 selves to a show set in the 1950s,” she said.

But some of the dances show several differences from the Broadway production. Taking inspiration from traditional swing music, West African and Caribbean dances, a variety of cultures and music periods are combined on stage, said the show’s choreographer.

“It was very interesting for me as choreographer doing the research and drawing from different styles of dances,” said Tamrin Goldberg. “It was a very cool history lesson going through the history of black dance, and pulling from so many cultures.”

She adds that the dancing is integral to understanding the characters and their personalities, and the actors will showcase that.

“When you’re doing a musical, you are finding movement language, and in a show where every step isn’t specifically set there is room for improvisation,” said Goldberg. “It allows you to bring a movement forward and the cast to inhabit these different ways.”

Bodarin believes the exploration of the characters in the adaptation presents a side to them that the play does not show. This fact will draw in the audience to form a more personal connection to their stories, she said.

“‘Raisin’ depicts the characters from the play and lets us hear what they’d sound like if they sang,” said Bondarin. “There is something about the musical, when a character is in really emotional heightened stakes — there are moments where you get to be with them in their emotional moments and they break out into song.”

And even though there are multiple formats in which to enjoy the classic Hansberry story — including Sidney Poitier’s star turn in the 1961 film — people will appreciate the musical just as much if they like the story, said Bondarin.

“I hope people get excited to see the characters’ interactive and emotional lives even more explicated in this musical,” she said. “The play is a masterpiece and the musical will give a very different experience in an exciting way, a different way, but you will enjoy it the same.”

“Raisin” at Astoria Performing Arts Center [30-44 Crescent St between 30th drive and 30th road in Astoria, 718-706-5750, www.apacny.org]. May 4–27, Thurs–Fri at 8 pm. Saturday 2 pm and 8 pm. $18 ($12 for students).

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