I saw *Paul Robeson* at Crossroads Theatre Company on 9/8/19. I would ordinarily have no burning desire to spend an hour and a half going to New Brunswick, NJ to see a play, but I was enticed by the prospect of seeing my friend Nathaniel Stampley in this show. I'm so glad I made the trip, it was extraordinary.
*Paul Robeson* is a play by Phillip Hayes Dean, written for James Earl Jones and premiered on Broadway in 1978. It's a one-man show about Robeson, the African-American actor, singer, and activist, a big star of the 20s through the 60s. It's a straightforward trip through his life, from being a young man in Princeton NJ to going to college at Rutgers (this production marked the 100th anniversary of his graduation from Rutgers, in New Brunswick), to his break-out in London, concert engagements throughout Europe, and political drama back in the US (including testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities). There are a number of songs woven into the play, but it's not a musical - - it's definitely a play with a few songs.
Nate and I were in college together, I've seen him a handful of times in shows since I moved to New York. I had never seen him in a starring role before, and wow, a one-man show, it doesn't get more starring than that! He was extraordinary, I was blown away by the power and grace of his performance. He had no trouble capturing the dignity and integrity of Robeson, because those are things he has in himself. The joy was seeing him really come into his own as an actor. He commanded the stage in a warm, welcoming way. Of course his singing was beautiful, but it was the acting that will stay with me. I hope he gets a chance to do another production of this play.
Nat Adderly Jr. played the role of Robeson's pianist, Lawrence Brown. He was onstage through nearly the entire show, underscoring the play. His contribution was essential to the quality of the production, it added so much flavor and drama.
Here's a clip of Nate at the season announcement, singing "Ol' Man River" a cappella: