Musical: TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM

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Musical: TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM
My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March
Developed for the Stage by Ally Sheedy
Based upon the book by Lynda Blackmon Lowery 
Musical Director Joshuah Brian Campbell.
Review by Ebele Oseye
 
MY MIND STAYED ON FREEDOM
 
As we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King ,The Riverside Church in the city of New York, on January 18th and 19th,  offered a staged production highlighting the life of someone who marched with Dr. King 55 years ago: Lynda Blackmon Lowery. She was the youngest of the marchers.
 
The second day of the march, March 22, was her birthday, and she was 15 years old. But to see her now, in 2020, vibrant, radiant, loving, beautiful, hopeful, is to experience fullness of joy flooding the heart. It was no easy walk for her on the road to freedom. After a brutal Alabama state trooper beat Lynda so severely, she would need seven stitches over her right eye and 28 stitches in the back of her head. It is more than a miracle that she survived.
 
But what a cast! What a talented cast delivers this Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom. Most members of the cast play multiple roles, diverse roles. A playmate in one moment can be the father in the next. As the character Lynda tells us, racism killed her mother when she was seven years old. And the father in the musical repeats that he was 15 minutes too late to save his wife. The hospital refused to use “white” blood for the needed transfusion and by the time the father returned from the Negro hospital with the needed blood, his wife had been dead for 15 minutes.
 
All seven members of the cast with outrageously beautiful voices sing until we are completely immersed in the history of Bloody Sunday and Edmund Pettus Bridge. While many of the harsh memories bring tears, this musical is not without laughter. This powerful musical which effectively transports us to that historical five-day march of 1965, opens with the cast singing, “Woke up this morning with my mind/Stayed on freedom.”  As the production progresses, we find at center stage, Jimmy Lee Jackson, the veteran shot and killed while protecting his mother.  As he sings his story, we know his courage and his sacrifice. We know that he lives.
 
High talent permeates all aspects of this production. The effective use of video footage, the directing, the music and most of all the genuine and constant manifestations of love, family love, siblings, father-daughter, neighborhood playmates and the support of the press which effectively brought peace-loving people from across the nation to support this cause for justice. Three thousand started out on this historical march.  
 
Three hundred made the complete march, including our Congressman John Lewis. Twenty-five thousand would gather on the final day of the march. This is a wonderful way to start the new year. This is the hope necessary to counter the current climate of despair. This beautiful work, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, honors the voice of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, whose book of the sase title is virtually a transcript for this  timely and prayerfully crafted production which restores the soul.
 
The playbill states: for information about performances at your school, contact Miranda Barry at miranda@sheedylit.com or 646-919-0440. 

 

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