Cookin’ at The Cookery

Alberta HunterCookin’ at The Cookery
Huntington Theatre, Boston
June 22, 2003
by Matt Robinson

Spun around the amazing comeback performance of Alberta Hunter (at the age of 82!) at Greenwich Village’s famed nightspot The Cookery, this musical tale of trial and triumph features two actresses (Montego Glover and Ernestine Jackson) who not only portray Ms. Hunter at various stages of life and fame, but also such other notables as an invisible Eubie Blake and an impressive Louis Armstrong. Combining Glover’s childish glee and sass with Jackson’s mature subtleties and spunk, the play rolls along like a guided tour through the life of this Blues and Jazz heroine, and through that life, through history itself.

From the turn of the century to the Vietnam era and from The Great White Way (where she opened opposite Paul Robeson in “Showboat”) to the White House, Hunter fulfilled not only her own dreams but also the dreams of other black women who faced the double-edged sword of racial and sexual discrimination. Mixing hot topics like sexual abuse, lesbianism and race relations with cool music like W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” Blake’s sweetly risqué “My Handy Man Ain’t Handy No More,” an uptempo take on Irving Berlin’s “Always” and Hunter’s originals “My Castle’s Rockin'” and “I’ve Got a Mind to Ramble,” Cookin’ depicts a woman who never lost her sense of humor, her love for music or her devotion to her mother. In two song-filled acts, Cookin’ at The Cookery serves up good times on a plate and leaves the audience singing, tapping and clapping along.

©2003 M. S. Robinson, ARR