Stephanie Hatley stars as Dinah Washington
Photo by Andre Helmstetter
I’m sure that every jazz musician knows the story of Dinah Was, the opening show of the 2007–2008 season at the Seattle Parks and Recreation's Langston Hughes Performing Art Center (LHPAC). Directed by Jacqueline Moscou and staring Stephanie Scott-Hatley, this inspiring production follows the life of the amazing jazz singer Dinah Washington. Though no one can say that Dinah didn’t have a positive impact on the world we live into today, this sad and provocative story shows another other side of her history. Even though Dinah was on top of the world when she was on stage, she had issues off of it. Her personal life was in shambles for most of her life, and yet she put on a proud face, broke new ground and changed the nation. LHPAC brings this show to life; Dinah’s amazing music is being heard again through her story.
Every aspect of the show is well put-together. The jazz ensemble fills the venue with soul and music. On opening night, Scott-Hatley’s voice carried to the back of the audience, not just telling us Dinah’s story, but making us live it. Chills ran through the audience during her rendition of “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes.”
She shares the stage with two other amazing singers: Felicia V. Loud, who captures the audience’s heart as the poor maid with a gorgeous voice, and G. To’mas Jones, who plays a devious character who, in the end, you can’t help but forgive. Other actors include Ton Davis, and Nik Doner, both of whom have to switch from a hated to a loved character just by changing hats. They accomplish this beautifully and there is never a doubt as to which character each is playing. The same can be said of Scott-Hatley’s clean steps through time - you always know exactly where she is and why. The greatest aspects of this show are the inspiring story and the people who portray it.
Other elements of the show, though, are just as important. The lights make every transition clear, and every fade is perfectly timed with the message. The pliable, multi-leveled set makes the steps through time easy to portray. The best part of the set is the platform from which the star performs. As soon as she heads for it, we know we are in for a treat. Plus, the artistically painted face of Dinah imprinted on the set watches over the play as if Dinah herself were there. At the end of the show, the eye-catching backdrop sparkles. As Loud walks off, she touches it, showing the ripples that Dinah made throughout her life.
Throughout, Dinah Was portrays the wonderful things that Dinah did to change our world for the better. The opening night audience was inspired to a standing ovation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a common practice during the run of this production. The whole theatre had such a great atmosphere, and I felt like I was stepping into a tight-knit and talented community. Telling this kind of story on stage takes a team and a lot of talent. This cast, band, and technical team did it amazingly well. I know that I will see shows at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center in the future.
October 12th, 2007
11.2.2007: Langston Hughes PAC regrets to announce that, due to a significant injury to the principal performer, ALL remaining performances of Dinah Was have been canceled.