Reprinted from yesterday late editions.
Returning to the National for a run through Oct. 9, "Bubbling Brown Sugar" bubbles less than it did before.
This is a not-unusual difference between a new show brushing everything from toes to teeth to knock New York dead within a few weeks and a touring version which has been roaming for a year or so.
But since there can be only one Vivian Reed, and she's otherwise engaged, the spark of a glittering performer no longer is around for one to discover. Very wisely, it seems to me, there's no effort to fit anyone into her shoes.
Bettye Lavette, who now does "Sweet Georgia Brown," is entirely unlike Reed, in fact has a perfectly good personality of her own, but in Act II Vivian's whammy is much missed. Nor does that finale seem quite so sensational.
This is not meant as too-cold a shoulder to the new "Brown Sugar," for this is a good deal superior to "All-Nite Strut," which was around so long last season,
With such familiar Harlem-in-the Twenties-Thirties-and-Forties numbers as "Georgia Brown," "Honeysuckle Rose," "Sophisticated Lady," "Solitude," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Take the 'A' Train," "Ain't Misbehavin'" "Love Will Find a Way" and "Jim, Jam, Jumpin' Jive," no score can be less than good.
Danny Holgate, Emme Kemp and Lillian Lopoz have done some nice ones for the slender storyline linking past and present. And Billy Wilson's choreography, though no longer at its best, isn't far from an "A."
And, from the original, as I recall it, comes Sandi Hewitt, whose gorgeous gospel style does it all for "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." There is the authentic period tap and strut from Charles "Honi" Coles, a performer in the great "don't-stoop-to-'em" black tradition.
Marilyn Johnson, not quite such a veteran, has style as an old-timer and Terri Burrell and Myles G. Savage do the younger generation proud in this cast of 20-odd.
The lighting and sound departments were in fairly sloppy form Tuesday day night.