Interact, the region’s premiere theater for performers with disabilities is currently on stage for the Guthrie’s Level 9 series in the Dowling Studio. Hot Funky Butt Jazz is their new musical about New Orleans’s jazz scene from just over a century ago. It’s the splendid culmination nearly a decade of workshops, improvisation, research and collaboration with many artists from the Twin Cities and New Orleans.
Director Jeanne Calvit has guided a wonderful cast of over 50 actors in a depiction of Jim Crow life where prim church propriety, prostitution, and police brutality are contrasted with the emerging and exciting new art form called “jazz”. Brilliant musicians form the spine of this vibrant historical vision: Zena Moses, Jeremy Phipps, and Eugene Harding.
Hot Funky Butt Jazz glistens with numerous sparkling performances, charming and touching. However, two in particular that stand out, portray the musical’s two social dimensions with a real punch. The magnetic Cayla Pierson is strikingly devout as Cora Russell, the Head Deacon of a church that ministers to those who’ve fallen by the wayside. Jeffrey Haas is irreverently saucy in a terrific turn as Coco Vaughn, a drag rebel in Dixieland.
Hot Funky Butt Jazz is masterfully interconnected with beautiful music and lyrics by Aaron Gabriel, who uncannily captures the mentality and the lore of the era, the early jazz style, and the musical comedy genre which is considered to be a truly American theatrical art form—just as jazz itself is considered to be a genuinely American music form. In summation, Hot Funky Butt Jazz is a contribution to the American theater tradition.
Hot Funky Butt Jazz
Through Nov. 18
Guthrie Theater Dowling Studio, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis