here's a section of the new york times review for that martin short musical i auditioned for some months ago called "fame becomes me" -- later, after i took a good look at the script and talked to ms. jenkins, i didn't understand why they'd consider me to understudy her role. although i sing like a big black lady, anyone can see that i'm only a size 6. being physically large is the whole point of the number.
interesting, that the reviewer would draw the correlation between the big black women in musicals and the big black women in tv commercials.
i suppose that recognizing the problem is progress but the only real answer lies in us as individuals not sitting around anymore, waiting for the phone to ring -- nurturing and developing our ideas, forging ahead independently and creating our own work. that's a tall order. but when i look at all the other options, it's the only real choice for me.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Enter one dea ex machina, named Capathia Jenkins. Broad of beam, with an even larger voice, Ms. Jenkins is also African-American, which would normally be beside the point. But as she says while she hustles Mr. Short (now in the guise of a geriatric songwriter) out of a sketch set in heaven, her race is a crucial part of the showbiz package she represents. She sings her explanation with rafter-rattling gusto:
If your plot’s running thin
And the ticket sales are slow
Let a big black lady stop the show.
The song, called “Stop the Show,” goes on ruthlessly to dissect an overexploited entertainment stereotype, a variation of which is found frequently, amid increasing controversy, on television commercials. (Ms. Jenkins wonders why songs for this stereotype, whether gospel or blues, are usually written by “gay white Jews.”) The inclusion of this number is all the gutsier when you realize that just such a show-stopper is used more than once in “Hairspray” (the popular Wittman-Shaiman musical) and was desperately trotted out in “The Goodbye Girl,” the notorious 1993 flop that starred Mr. Short.
But something strange happens as Ms. Jenkins keeps pumping up the volume. The audience, having first laughed a little uncertainly at the joke, starts to revel in the gospel beat, clapping along and bobbing its collective head. Sure enough, “Stop the Show,” alone among the production’s 20-some numbers, stops the show.