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THEATER REVIEW: “God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons In Verse” is quite uplifting

I don’t know whether God has any trombones, or for that matter whether there is a God, but James Weldon Johnson used the term to describe the fire-and-brimstone preaching style of black pastors.

Now Johnson’s slim 1927 volume “God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons In Verse” has been adapted into a sort of gospel review for the stage by Calvin Manson of the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players, playing through March 11 at the Educational Cultural Complex.

It’s a huge undertaking, involving by my count 27 singers and 16 dancers, the San Diego County Gospel Workshop of America chorus and a terrific gospel quintet known as the Redeemed, and including nearly 30 musical numbers.

There are familiar gospel hymns and several original songs by Manson. Two choreographers – C. Anthony Cole and Steve Beard – have created fluid and energetic moves, and a six-piece band keeps the beat going.

The choir acquits itself well on high-spirit numbers like “We Come To P{raise The Lord,” “Fire Next Time” and more quietly in the spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

Manson contributes with an amusing “On That Seventh Day” piece, in which Adam points at Eve and says “She did it.” But Manson’s pièce de résistance comes in the telling of the prodigal son story: “Welcome To Babylon” illustrates all the glitzy pleasures of the world in one wonderfully executed number.

The gospel quintet Redeemed offers terrific gospel harmony on songs like “Let My People Go” and gives solid backup to Benjamin Roy on “It’s Gonna Rain.”

The CAC Dance Theatre and the Bayview Baptist Circh Gospel Dance Troupe work separately and together, as Manson weaves the story of God’s creation and man’s fall, the crucifixion and judgment day.

It’s an impressive undertaking, and one that will leave you clapping, stomping, perhaps even dancing in the aisles.

The details

“God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons In Verse” plays through March 11 at the Educational Cultural Complex, 4343 Ocean Blvd., Mountain View area of San Diego.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.

For tickets, call (619) 283-4574 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.