LIGHTS OUT: NAT KING COLE by Carol Kaufman Segal
Lights Out: Nat King Cole, written by Colman Domingo and Patricia McGregor, is based on the evening of the final Nat King Cole television show in 1957. He had been the first African American to host his own television program. But though he always appeared calm, gracious and smooth, his inner manner den
ied his true feelings. With his beautiful voice accompanied by his piano and an orchestra, he was the epitome of charm and talent that belied what was in his heart and soul.
The show only lasted one year, and as Nat King Cole (Dule Hill) waits in his dressing room for the start of his final variety show, he is upset and angry when the make-up lady appears at the room to cover his face with white powder. When he refuses, he is told by his producer (Bryson Dobson), it is for the best so that he comes across more acceptable to his audiences. Ever since he had been performing his show, he had to endure offensive situations of one kind or another in respect to his color. By now, he has had enough,
Throughout the performance, as the show is presented, he is whispered off-stage to by the producer to keep from getting too close to his female guests on the show, and other obstreperous instructions, that by the time of the finale, he is so strung out that he ends with a wild tap dancing battle with guest star, Sammy Davis Jr. (Daniel J. Watts).
Due to the fact that the play jumps into different times and situations, it is often difficult to follow and to make sense of it. There are moments when Cole thinks about past shows, and former guests show up on the stage in the form of Betty Hutton, Peggy Lee, and others (Ruby Lewis), and Eartha Kitt and others (Gisela Adisa). Their performances are wonderfully realistic, Adisa is a perfect Eartha Kitt. Dule Hill as Nat King Cole and Daniel J. Watts as Sammy Davis, Jr. are stupendous. All voices are superb. The problem I find with the production is that the play lacks form and can be confusing at times.
Other members of the cast include Zonya Love (Cole’s mother Perlina and others), Connor Amacio Matthews (Billy Preston and others), Mary-Pat Green (Candy and others), and Brandon Ruiter (Stage Manager and others).
Lights Out: Nat King Cole plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM, through March 24, at the Geffen Playhouse located at 10866 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are available by calling (310) 208-5454, on line at geffenplayhouse.org, or at the theatre box office.