Must-see 'Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope' at The Black Rep still resonates
By Calvin Wilson St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sep 9, 2019
Some shows transcend their time to succeed in becoming timeless, even as history continues its inexorable march. And that renders such shows well worth revival.
That’s certainly the case with “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” the gloriously entertaining musical revue that runs through Sept. 22 in a Black Rep production. It’s as songful a show as one could wish for, boasting terrific numbers performed by a first-rate ensemble including singer and St. Louis favorite Denise Thimes.
Directed by Ron Himes, the show is an exhilarating celebration of African American culture — and no less relevant today than when it had its Broadway debut in 1972. With music and lyrics by Micki Grant and conceived by Vinnette Carroll, “Don’t Bother Me” ranges from gospel and jazz to rock ‘n’ soul. And the choreography of Kirven Douthit-Boyd is thoroughly in sync with the spirited proceedings.
From left: Denise Thimes, Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Drummond Crenshaw in the Black Rep production of "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope." Photo by Phillip Hamer
The songs address the black experience with a blend of showbiz panache and social critique. The title tune — a litany of aggravations linked to racial injustice and insensitivity — is the standout. But a close runner-up is “All I Need,” seemingly directed mostly at white theatergoers and calling for “less fatback, more greenback and you off my back.”
Also of particular note are “Billie Holiday Blues,” a tribute to the legendary jazz singer featuring Sieglinda Fox, and a song called “Ghetto Life” that wouldn’t have been out of place in a black film of the 1970s.
Himes keeps things moving with fire and finesse, eliciting spot-on performances. The show also benefits mightily from a live band including musical director and keyboardist Charles Creath, bassist William “Rainey” Rainer, guitarist Dennis Brock and drummer Benard Long Jr.
“Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope” proves that it’s possible to be uplifting while acknowledging the turbulence of the times. It’s an auspicious beginning to the Black Rep’s 43rd season — and a must-see.
Drummond Crenshaw in the Black Rep production of "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope." Photo by Phillip Hamer