Only in New Orleans: High-spirited musical is ‘Old School’

Photo provided by Anthony Bean Community Theater -- Joshua Williams sings
Photo provided by Anthony Bean Community Theater -- Joshua Williams sings "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" with other cast members in the Anthony Bean Community Theater production, "Old School / Nu Skool." From left: Williams, Raiyon Hunter, Brittani Johnson, Alexus Fulton, Nyja White, Chyleah Green and Kennedy Bissant.

By Annette Sisco

Community news editor

Why do fools fall in love?

Young people will sing that question, posed by the 1956 Frankie Lymon hit, in an Anthony Bean Community Theater production called “Old School / Nu Skool,” written by Bean himself around a selection of favorite R&B anthems.

The play premieres Friday through Sunday and continues next weekend, with performances at 8 p.m. and matinees at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The lively musical is the finale of a six-week summer acting intensive that has grown ever more popular with youngsters in the community, Bean said. Seventy-five young people learn the fundamentals of acting, including building character, proper stage enunciation and expressing emotion — all skills that translate well to the real world.

Then, they put on a play.

“Old School/Nu Skool” tells the story of a young girl who has lost her grandmother. In honor of her grandmother’s love for R&B music, the girl creates a show.

“It’s an R&B show, with lots of vocalists, celebrating R&B music,” Bean said. Performers will lip-synch, sing others and execute dance numbers on a set that reflects both the old-school era, with jukebox and album covers, and the “nu skool” world of today.

The performers range in age from 8 to 18. Most of them were already familiar with songs like The Marvelette’s “Please, Mr. Postman” and The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” from their grandparents’ CD collections, Bean said. And they think the old-time music holds up well.

“I like that music, and I find kids love it,” Bean said. “They think the songs of that period were more romantic: Boy meets girl, girl breaks boys’ heart. They like the storytelling.”

On the day we talked, the students were preparing for a visit from Irma Thomas — Queen of Soul and a relative of Bean’s. “We’re also doing ‘It’s Raining,’ ” Bean said. “Irma is going to be here and sing it for the kids, and bring her Grammy.”

“Old School / Nu Skool” is written and directed by Bean with actors Mychael Thompson, Asia Nelson, Daniel Fontenette, Prinsey Walker and Annie Green. Choreography is by MaQue Hollins.

The theater is at 1333 S. Carrollton Ave. Call the box office for reservations: (504) 862-7529, or go to www.anthonybeantheater.com. Tickets are $15; $12 for students 14 and younger.

Hope Stone performance

It’s that time of year. Young artists ages 6-17 from Hope Stone New Orleans’ and Dance Quarter’s World’s Fair Performing Arts Camp will showcase the material they’ve learned during the camp in a final performance at 6 p.m. Thursday at NOLA Spaces, 1719 Toledano St.

Led by Hope Stone Kids Director Dana Reed and Nathalie Gomes Adams, owner of NOLA Spaces, the material includes an original theater piece, a dance medley, African drumming, singing, a student film screening and an exhibit of the students’ work.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the door.

Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at asisco@theadvocate.com or (504) 432-9257.