.Lights up. Lights down. That exactly describes the physical opening of Recorded in Hollywood last Friday evening at the Lillian Theatre, Hollywood, CA.
Notwithstanding a confluence of incidental events that transpired which nearly derailed the production – a pre-show audience member accident, a 30 minutes late curtain, a host of un-ending technical difficulties: actors singing and moving through stage direction (impressively without pause) in the dark at length, intermittent disappearing sound, and an overly long running time, Recorded in Hollywood, actually kept its musical momentum and pulled off a powerful “Hail Mary” for a truly celebratory opening night.
Recorded in Hollywood is not just another show. It is a piece of true, iconic Los Angeles music history.
Although the actual script is not particularly dramatic, it nevertheless details the emphatic moments in the life of local legend John Dolphin who pulled African-American music up by its bootstraps and thrust it onto a white dominated music industry, promoting into dominance artists and sounds that we still know and love today. And according to his grandson Jamelle Dophin, the John Dolphin story gives long-overdue credit to the man he says influenced the likes of Sam Cooke, The Penguins and The Hollywood Flames. All this by a man who was simply “a flashy music promoter” who started off as a used car salesman and who just loved music…long before Motown Records was a glint in Barry Gordy’s eye.
Most impressive and equally fascinating is that during his run with his shop, Dolphin’s of Hollywood, with the help of famed DJ Dick “Huggy Boy” Hug and others, who spun records at one point, 24 hours a day inside the shop, he was able to grab the imagination of white and black teens alike, drawing them to a location on Central, to shop, dance, openly mingle (dangerous stuff during that generation) and love listening to Rhythm & Blues unabashedly together. As a black man he was not allowed to rent a retail space in the actual Hollywood area. He went on to establish a chain of Dolphin’s of Hollywood shops and a recording/producing studio for up and coming talent.
Mr. Dolphin’s life, however was cut short, murdered by a singer in a disagreement over ownership of his songs. Eventually, although his wife and family took over the shop, Dolphin’s of Hollywood closed its doors, the first location in South L.A. being the last to shutter in 1989.
Recorded in Hollywood is a celebration of John Dophin’s legacy and the music he lived and breathed. Despite the opening night hiccups it is only going to get tighter as a production. This show is a must see for no less a reason of singing talent, music composition, choreography and every other outstanding element in this show, as it is an ode to John Dolphin’s vision of Black American music for his generation and beyond.
Recorded in Hollywood is the true story of black businessman, record label owner and music producer John Dolphin. In 1948, a decade before Motown, he opened his world-famous Dolphin’s of Hollywood record shop in South Los Angeles, but his contributions to music and the formative years of rock ’n’ roll have often been overlooked. Based on the book Recorded In Hollywood: The John Dolphin Story, this new musical features 16 original songs to match the musical era of the 1950s, as well as hit cover songs associated with the story.
Book by Matt Donnelly and Jamelle Dolphin
Music and Lyrics by Andy Cooper
Directed by Denise Dowse
Musical Direction by Stephan Terry
Choreography by Cassie Crump
Starring Eric B. Anthony, Brooke Brewer, Justin Cowden, John Devereaux, Richie Ferris, Jenna Gillespie, Franklin Grace, Nic Hodges, Stu James, Jade Johnson, Philip Dean Lightstone, Godfrey Moye, Jake Novak, Nic Olsen, Rahsaan Patterson, James Simenc, Matthew Sims, Jr., Sha’Leah Nikole Stubblefield, Katherine Washington
Produced by Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners
Now Playing until May 17th.
Photo (above) by Ed Krieger: Stu James and Ensemble