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How Bubbly learned to say it loud and sing it proud

​The Bubbly Black Girl sheds her chameleon skin, Belgrade Theatre, until April 15

A musical may seem an odd vehicle to chart the history of racism over three decades in the USA.

Even when it​ has a cheesy storyline of young black girl, ​nicknamed Bubbly, ​who dreams of becoming a star, ​and is willing to play to white man's stereotype​s​.

Inevitably, she finally kicks back and in true Broadway style declares "I am what I am," or words to that effect, gets a coveted stage role but ​ends up opening her own dance-school in Harlem.

Now we are in familiar musical territory. Or are we? Writer Kirsten Childs wouldn't be the first to use ​musical, an innately ridiculous genre, to highlight the absurdities of life.

Top of that list is the sheer stupid pointlessness of racial discrimination. So what could be more apt ​than wrapping it in a musical?

The format also allows her to ​sucker punch you with some unpalatable truths after being lulled by ​high octane singing​ 'n' dancing and booty shakin' (take a bow ​Bubbly's beau, Lucas).

The issue of 'internalised racism' for instance where the degree of darkness ​of skin can be a divisive factor in some black communities.

​The story​ covers the period from the early ​60s Klu Klux Klan atrocities to police brutality towards black people in the ​1990s.

​Effervescent pre-teen Viveca goes by the nickname ​Bubbly, a handle ​which​ is to define her approach to life, floating like a bubble unwilling to stand up ​to racism. Until she moves to New York seeking fame.

In the first half of the play, the role is taken by Karis Jack;in the second Sophia Mackay.

Karis has the tougher gig. Playing a vacuous LA kid with a high-pitched giggle who can belt out a song like a Motown veteran. ​A bit of a stretch, but she pulls it off and lays the ground for a seamless transition to her older self.

You can't get away from the serious messages underlying the froth​. And they come with brutal and explicit force.

But there are also some fabulous song and dance routines - the gym scene, high school prom and the aforementioned booty-fest ​would light up any show​ -​and had the audience shouting its appreciation ​with a standing ovation.

I​n the musical's finest tradition​, a happy ending. Then the lights come on, in every sense. Have attitudes really changed much in the 17 years since Bubbly was written?


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