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Follow-up to ‘One Mo’ Time’ Equally Cheering

May 18, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Why mess with a winning format? Vernel Bagneris wisely has stuck with the mix of spirited 1920s New Orleans music and backstage black vaudeville life that he created in ″One Mo’ Time″ for his new show, ″Further Mo’.″

″Further Mo‴ opened Thursday night at the off-Broadway Village Gate Downstairs, once the site for the long-running ″One Mo’ Time.″

Bagneris, who wrote and directed the new show, appears in it as the laid- back, likable dancer and singer Papa Du. But he shines the spotlight on his three women singers and sometime shimmy-shakers.

Sandra Reaves-Phillips, who has toured in ″The Late Great Ladies of Blues and Jazz,″ brings a big, rich voice to Big Bertha. Frozine Thomas, who was in ″One Mo’ Time″ here, has a highly musical sound as Ma Reed. Topsy Chapman, as Papa Du’s young wife Thelma, sounds like Nell Carter without the belting.

There’s a little more plot in ″Further Mo‴ than in the previous show. Edna is sick and Papa Du has hired Big Bertha, former member of the troupe, as ″special surprise guest star″ - without informing Ma and Thelma.

This leads to Bertha and Thelma clawing each other with down-home catty repartee in the dressing room. There may be a few too many bickering one- liners. Some are fun; others just sound old.

The main plot idea is based on New Orleans’ Lyric Theater burning down in 1927. Early on, James ″Red″ Wilcher as a wimpy theater owner nobody should trust tells Papa Du that the theater’s going to burn that night, for the insurance.

But the attraction of ″Further Mo‴ isn’t plot. It’s music. Reaves- Phillips heats up the hall with her fervent ″Trouble in Mind.″ There are some of those funny double-entendre blues, ″One Hour Mama″ and ″Had To Give Up Gym.″

Thomas delivers the feminist anthem ″Wild Women (Don’t Have No Blues).″ Chapman gets to sing ″My Man,″ from the ″Ziegfeld Follies″ of 1921. The three harmonize beautifully on ″Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home.″

The front of the stage is the stage of the Lyric Theater. One can see, behind the singers, a dressing room on one side and on the other side five fine musicians playing trumpet, clarinet, piano, Sousaphone and drums.

Norzar Productions Inc. and Michael Frazier produced. Charles McClennahan designed the set. Joann Clevenger designed costumes. Pepsi Bethel did choreography.

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