For nearly a decade now, Ben West has been unearthing countless documents and manuscripts about Musical Theatre. His end-game? The Showtime! Trilogy; Three documentary-style pieces showcasing this uniquely American art form and the many diverse individuals who have contributed to it.
Last year, West, who also stars in his work, introduced his first installment, The First 100 Years of the American Musical.
On Thursday evening at Theatre at Saint Peter’s, he premiered the second part, 45 Minutes from Coontown. For 90 minutes, West celebrates shows from the mid-1800s through the 1990s that were written by or for African-American artists.
West delves deep into the dark recesses of a shameful, racist past to discover true treasures. This is the type of show that anyone who cares about theater–musical or otherwise- would be smart to attend. It is, at times, uncomfortable and unsettling, but that’s the whole point. He never attempts provocation. He is simply a buoyant vessel who relays truthful storytelling. That, in itself, results in a provocative experience. The overall result is 90 minutes of education, enlightenment, & entertainment.
Next year, West concludes his trilogy with 68 Ways to Go, a look at female contributions to the musical canon.
45 Minutes from Coontown runs through Sept. 15th @ Theater at Saint Peter’s (619 Lexington Avenue between 54th and 55th Street, NYC). For tickets and information, visit Unsung Musicals.