Jomama Jones: Radiate
nytheatre.com review by Anthony Johnston
January 3, 2011
It’s not often you leave the theatre, or a concert, or film, or dance piece (or anything or anywhere for that matter) feeling like you want to make the world a better place and strive to be the best version of your self that you can be. After spending an hour in the presence of Jomama Jones, you’ll want to do just that.
Miss Jones is a 6-foot tall, sequin-sporting soul queen with a big heart—and an even bigger Afro. In the late '70s and early '80s she was at the top of her game, and at the top of the charts, but after becoming disenchanted with the music industry and with the political and social state of America at the time, Jomama exiled herself from her native country to travel the world—with no plans of ever looking back. Luckily for us, Jomama has had a change of heart, and after many years away, she has finally come home. Jomama Jones: Radiate at Soho Rep is this fabulous disco diva’s spectacular comeback concert.
Jomama and her uber-talented team of musicians and backup singers bring you a concert/cabaret show packed with groovy original disco songs, sweet dance moves, hilarious and surprisingly moving storytelling, and, of course, a couple of sexy costume changes.
Performer and creator Daniel Alexander Jones (credited in the program as only “cousin of Jomama”) brings such life to this character that it’s not hard to see why some people leave the theatre wondering if Jomama Jones is even a character at all—Did this woman really knock Michael Jackson off the Billboard #1 for four weeks in the early '80s? Jomama Jones speaks to her fans like we’re her very best friends, and she does it with an ease and honesty that makes it nearly impossible not to feel connected to her at the very core of your being.
In the universe of Radiate, Jomama is the sun, and she is orbited by the show’s brilliant composer and musical director, Bobby Halvorson, and her lovely backup singers, “The Sweet Peaches,” Helga Davis and Sonya Perryman, whose pipes really do bring the house the down. Jing Xu, as Jomama’s mostly mute assistant, radiates positive energy and helps to keep the crowd connected to the show.
Set designer Arnulfo Maldonato has transformed Soho Rep's Walker Street theatre into a delicious disco ballroom for Jomama to take the stage. Lucrecia Briceno and David Bengali’s lighting is spot on; our star is always looking hot, and the light bounces beautifully off of her gorgeous gowns—each one more impressive than the last—creations by Oana Botez-Ban and Ron Cesario.
Jomama's triumphant return, fittingly at the start of a brand new year, is about remembering who we are and where we come from. Through electrifying musical numbers, laugh-out-loud banter and candid personal stories, she challenges us all to live up to our full potential. Jomama may be a superstar, but she's here to show us that she's really just like us. Or rather, that we're just like her—she lets us know that we are all stars.