I really can’t say enough about “Motown the Musical,” which is still playing at the Academy of Music on Broadway Philadelphia. I was impressed by mostly everything – the energetic performances, the beautiful costumes and stage design, and the fact that it was an approximately two-hour sing-along of classic Motown hits chronicling the journey of founder and business mogul Berry Gordy.

I chatted with the actor portraying Gordy, Chester Gregory, prior to last week’s press screening and more recently spoke with Mr. Jarran Muse – who gives a magnificent performance as the late, legendary singer/songwriter/musician Marvin Gaye. Muse has also performed on Broadway (NYC) in Motown The Musical, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Dreamgirls, and has toured in American IdiotDreamgirls, Hairspray, 42nd Street.

How much interaction have you had with Mr. Gordy, or any artist related to Motown, and what was the best piece of advice you were given by them?

“We have had a lot of interaction with Mr. Gordy. He wrote this show and is one of the lead producers. This is his life story, so he holds it very close to his heart. We also have interactions with all of the living Motown legends. They come to see the show whenever we are close to them. They all told us they were so happy that we were keeping their legacy alive.”

You’ve portrayed on Broadway, and now this touring production, one of soul music’s most beloved and iconic artists, the late Marvin Gaye. What has been the most memorable fan reaction you’ve had since you started playing him?

“I love playing Marvin Gaye. One day, a lady was at the stage door while the cast was signing playbills and chatting with her group. She kept saying, ‘And that Marvin! Oh God, he looked just like him and sounded like him too! Oh, I just can’t! Where is Marvin?’ Someone pointed to me, as I signed her book, and said, ‘That’s him right there!’ She squealed so loudly, dropped all of her belongings, gave me the tightest hug and said, ‘Let’s Get It On!’ Definitely the best. (laughs)”

How much research did you do for the role, and what was the most surprising thing you learned about Mr. Gaye while doing so?

“I did a lot of research – reading books, watching videos of performances and interviews – and had a lot of one-on-one time with Mr. Gordy. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that Marvin grew up a preachers kid, and was an extremely shy person.”

You’re a Jersey native and graduate of Philly’s University of the Arts. What are you most looking forward to during this Philly tour stop, and what places will you recommend the cast/crew check out while they are in town?

“I didn’t graduate from UARTS, but the time I spent there was well needed. I am looking forward to hanging in Old City and Rittenhouse Square. I will definitely tell them to go to the Art Museum, and down South Street. Those were some of my favorite places.”

MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist – past or present – any genre on the big screen, who would it be and why?

“I actually want to portray Marvin Gaye in his life story. Marvin’s role in Motown the Musical is significant, but the world needs to really know how complex his life was. There has never been a Marvin Gaye story, and the time is now!”

And the time is also now for anyone who has yet to see this hit stage play, and for those who need to see it again! “Motown the Musical” runs on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music through Sunday, June 11. Tickets and info are available at, and follow Jarran Muse for updates at

Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick chat with ‘MOTOWN THE MUSICAL’ actor Chester Gregory and giveaway for Thursday, May 1 (Broadway Philadelphia)

Motown The Musical
May 30 – June 11, 2017 I Academy of Music
(Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

Happy Memorial Day weekend MMT Fam! A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Motown founder and legend Berry Gordy, and his best friend the legendary singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson, and to say that I had a fan girl/out of time/space experience was an understatement! The only words I could speak, after Mr. Robinson decided to walk up to me and plant a kiss on my right cheek, were “Can we take a picture?” And he graciously obliged. I was a bit more articulate with Mr. Gordy after the event, which honored Gordy with the prestigious Marian Anderson award, and was able to state how much I adored him as a child and still to this day.

So, although it was a disappointment to me that both the screening of a movie that I’ve awaited forever – “Wonder Woman” – and a musical telling the story of Mr. Gordy and his founding of Hitsville, U.S.A. were on the same night, I really had no problem choosing the latter – “Motown the Musical.”

The musical, which broke Philly box office records back in 2015, returns for a two-week engagement starting this Tuesday, May 30.

Earlier last week, I chatted briefly with Chester Gregory, who is reprising the role of Berry Gordy after portraying him on Broadway last year, and he gave some insight into his experience with the production and his interactions with Mr. Gordy. Gregory’s Broadway credits also include Hairspray, Tarzan, Cry-Baby and Sister Act, and he has toured nationally performing in Dreamgirls and his one-man show The Eve of Jackie Wilson.

Let me start by saying I am a Motown “fiend!” I’ve met both Mr. Gordy and Mr. Smokey Robinson and went straight into fan girl mode. How much interaction have you had with Mr. Gordy, or any artist related to Motown, and what was the best piece of advice you were given by them? 

“I am honored to say that I’ve had a lot of interaction with Mr. Gordy. He is very involved in our production, making refinements as he sees fit. Much like he did with actual Motown artists of that era. One thing I have learned is to never look down on your accomplishments. Keep them high and you will always be grateful for them.”

You’ve portrayed Mr. Gordy, who’s arguably a genius in the music industry, on Broadway and now this touring production . How much research did you do for the role, and was it intimidating to have him involved in the project?

“I have studied Mr. Gordy for several years. Honestly, it is a dream that manifests itself daily and, strangely enough, it’s not intimidating. I want to learn all I can from him so, when he gives notes, I aim to tap into his mindset and make sure I deliver that intention. As an actor, I’m excited to get notes – they can add depth to the work!”

Now, the MMT signature question is typically – If you could portray any artist, past or present any genre, on the big screen, who would it be and why. But I also know you’ve portrayed Jackie Wilson on stage. So, if there’s a different answer I certainly welcome it, but would also ask if it was a big screen biopic – what else would you bring to Mr. Wilson’s story that you couldn’t do with the musical/stage play?

“You are 100% right! It has been a dream of mine to portray Jackie Wilson on the big screen, and that is because film captures a moment forever, for future generations to see.”

In addition to acting and singing, Mr. Gregory is a songwriter and producer. You can follow him on social media @ChesterGregory and learn more about his work, and that Jackie Wilson stage production “The Eve of Jackie Wilson,” at

Now for the even better part! Want to win a pair of tickets to the show for Thursday, June 1 on Broadway Philadelphia? You must be subscribed to this website and send an email to with the subject line “Motown” and describing your favorite Motown memory/song in the body. One winner will be selected and notified on Tuesday, May 30.

“Motown the Musical” opens on Broadway Philadelphia at the Academy of Music on Tuesday, May 30 and runs through Sunday, June 11. Tickets and additional information are available at










Social media chat with the cast of ‘WONDER WOMAN’ and advance screening giveaway (Philly, Pa area)

Happy Thursday MMT Fam! I am very excited to share audio from a press conference and Q & A with the cast of the highly anticipated film WONDER WOMAN.

Cast members Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Chris Pine (Steve Trevor), Robin Wright (General Antiope), Danny Huston (General Erich Ludendorff), Connie Nielsen (Queen Hippolyta) and director Patty Jenkins sat down on May 21 to share their thoughts and experiences while working on the project. Hit the play button below to listen to the full interview.


Now many of you who follow MMT on Facebook, and me on either Instagram or Twitter, already know I have been waiting…a long time… to see this movie! Unfortunately for the “wonder woman/girl” in me, and fortunately for the Motown lover in me, I will be previewing Motown the Musical on the film’s advance screening night! But don’t cry for me, because I plan to be at the movie theater, top row center, on June 2 when WONDER WOMAN opens nationwide.

However, I am going to send 25 lucky “active” (those who share/comment/like) subscribers a special invite to view “Wonder Woman” in my absence – and welcome each of them to email me their thoughts after viewing so I can post and share with everyone. Although, if you’ve been reading the critic and fan reviews out thus far, you know folk are raving and calling this the best DC extended universe (DCEU) comic film so far!

If you think the above “active” description fits you, and can travel to King of Prussia, PA on a Tuesday night, send me an email to with the subject line “I’m active!” and your full name in the body. I will select 25 winners and send them a special code to download a pass to next Tuesday’s (May 30) event.

You can check out the latest trailer and synopsis of WONDER WOMAN below and get additional information at the official website

Good luck!



Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior.   Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when an American pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.  Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production, “Wonder Woman.”  The film is scheduled for release on June 2, 2017, and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

This film has been rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.







Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Oh, to relive the music/message/love story/dance (any combination thereof) mashup movies of the 80’s! Many of us Music Movie loving old-schoolers remember Jennifer Beals dancing for her life in Flashdance (1983), Tom Cruise’s infamous underwear wearing floor slide in Risky Business (1983), the hip-hop, R&B and rap infused themes of Beat Street and Breakin’ (both 1984), Kevin Bacon fighting for prom and love in Footloose (1984), the loosely based and celebrity filled account of Russell Simmon’s story in Krush Groove (1985), Taimak’s fierce martial artistry and the late Vanity’s “7th Heaven” in The Last Dragon (1985), and then came 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” – when we learned that some got quite freaky in the Catskill Mountains in the 60’s and “nobody puts Baby in the corner!”

Flash forward 30 years, and not only are we getting the chance to relive the magic of Dirty Dancing in a new ABC network film set for a May 24 release – with Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes taking on the iconic roles of Baby Houseman and Johnny Castle that were immortalized by Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze on the big screen – but there is a touring production of the beloved classic, and Philadelphia is lucky enough to host the musical at the Merriam Theater one week before the TV movie premieres.

MMT took time to chat with Jennifer Mealani Jones, who’s taking on the role of Penny Johnson (remember that character? the pregnancy, the abortion, the scandal!) when the show hits town and who also has several ties to the Philly area. Ms. Jones, a native of Ellicott City, MD, attended the prestigious University of the Arts in Center City, was a Philadelphia 76er Dream Team dancer, as well as a member of the famed Philadelphia Dance Company (Philandanco).

Dirty Dancing has enamored audiences for three generations, officially turning 30 this August. Were you a fan of the original film and, if so, what impacted you most?

“I was a huge fan of the original film. I felt like I related to Baby so much when I was younger. I was shy but passionate, not very graceful but hardworking, and I had the hair to match. I also was the wallflower that was attracted to all the bad boys I never thought I had a chance with (laughs).”

What do you most look forward to while bringing this project back to Philly, an area where you once resided/went to school?

“I can’t wait for my professors, people I used to dance/work with, and all my friends still in Philly to come see the show. I can only hope I’ve grown since college. Also, most of the people above have only seen me dance and now they’ll see me act. I am really looking forward to some feedback.”

What can audiences expect from the stage adaptation that varies from the film?

“It’s everything you loved in the movie plus so much more. There are more dance scenes, live singing, and you get a closer look into Johnny and Baby’s relationship, Baby’s parents, Billy(Johnny’s cousin) and Elizabeth (one of the staff gals), and all the staff kids too.”

Tell me about some of your favorite Philly hangouts and where are you recommending the cast/crew visit while they are here?

“I have so many. I’ll definitely stop by Bru, Han Dynasty, Jose Pistolas, Honeys and PYT in Northern Liberties, Passyunk Square for brunch, Silk City for sure, and some spots in Fishtown because I hear it’s changed so much since I lived in Philly. The list is endless but it’s safe to say I’ll be eating well while I’m visiting.

I’ll send the cast to South Philly to get a cheesesteak, either Pat’s or Geno’s, and tell them to stop into Garage Bar. Of course they’ll have to take a walk around Rittenhouse Square, maybe check out Xfinity Live on a Saturday night, and go up and down all the bars and restaurants on Sansom street. Oh and Old City! I used to frequent Lucy’s. I just hope most of these places are still here.”

MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist (any genre/art form) – past or present – who would it be and why? 

“That is so hard. My first instinct is to say Gwen Verdon, but I would do anything to do some of the numbers Cyd Charisse performed and oh my goodness Chita! Chita Rivera!

I think out of all of the Goddesses though, past and present, I would go with Barbra Streisand. Funny Girl is my favorite movie and she is just my favorite woman – with her power, class, and humor. I would do anything for a voice like hers.”

Check out Jennifer Mealani Jones as Penny and the rest of the Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage cast at the Merriam Theater May 16-21. Tickets and additional information are available now at



MMT Quick Chat with THE BODYGUARD: THE MUSICAL’s Jasmin Richardson

The Bodyguard February 21-26 Academy of Music Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
The Bodyguard, February 21-26, Academy of Music Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Whether you are a lover of the film The Bodyguard, or in the camp that brushed it off as a cheesy love story, there’s one thing on which most people agree – the soundtrack was, and is, magnificent. So, it’s no wonder that a musical adaptation, since its 2012 opening, has taken stages across the world by storm, and will make its début tonight in Philadelphia at the Academy of Music.

With an energetically talented cast, led by the multi-platinum selling artist Deborah Cox in the lead role of Rachel Marron, made famous by the legendary Whitney Houston, and a book by Alexander Dinelaris adapted from Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, The Bodyguard: The Musical incorporates the Grammy award-winning soundtrack along with songs from Houston’s discography – including “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” “So Emotional,” and “One Moment in Time.”

Also a part of this production is Jasmin Richardson, who takes on the role of Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron. No stranger to the theater stage, Ms. Richardson has been in the National/ International tours of Memphis (Felicia) and Dreamgirls (Deena). She’s also recognizable from her media campaign with Clinique Cosmetics.

MMT asked Ms. Richardson a few questions, including her reflections on the late Ms. Houston, working with Ms. Cox and what theater goers can expect from the musical version of the story.

February 11th marked the fifth anniversary of Whitney Houston’s passing and The Bodyguard is one of her most highlighted works. What are your reflections of Ms. Houston and her in the landmark role of Rachel Marron?

Whitney Houston is one of a kind and can never be replaced. Her voice is timeless. She was sexy, classy and very out spoken; she was the ultimate superstar.

Were you a fan of Ms. Houston’s prior to he being cast in the musical, and do you have any favorite Houston songs (to sing or listen)?

I learned how to tell a song through listening to Whitney’s music. The way she nuances a song was dynamic and her vocal ability is unmatched. She was known as the “The Voice” –  it doesn’t get any bigger than that.

For those who’ve yet to see the show, what differences from the movie should they expect?

It really is a romantic thriller, so that cinematic element is woven into the script. My character Nicki has more of an arc (than the film), and you get to know her a bit better in our show. We also have additional songs intertwined into the story, not just the ones from The Bodyguard soundtrack.

What has been your favorite fan/audience member reaction to this production so far?

We opened in Jersey and it was nice to have a lot of hometown fans come and give us their stamp of approval. That was a wonderful way to start the tour.

Were you a fan of Ms. Cox prior to the musical and what is it like working with her on set?

Absolutely! She’s a beautiful person inside and out, and she has truly set the tone for our tour. She is a singing masterclass every night on stage, and amazing to work with.

MMT signature question: If you could portray any artist (any medium) past or present, who would it be and why?

Maya Angelou because she was a light on this earth. She had a beautiful way with words, especially when it came to addressing the plight of the black woman and her inner strength.

Speaking of the plight of the black woman, and in the spirit of #BlackGirlMagic, please share one piece of advice to young girls/aspiring artists coming to see musical?

Commitment to your craft and consistency are key. You have everything it takes to succeed. Work hard and trust yourself. Anything is possible!

The Bodyguard: The Musical runs February 21-26. Tickets and information are available at



MMT Talk with FENCES stars Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo

Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo

During the Philadelphia stop of the FENCES press tour, Thomasena sat down with cast members Russell Hornsby, who reprises his role of Lyons from the 2010 Broadway revival, and Jovan Adepo who plays Maxson’s (Denzel Washington) youngest son Corey in the film.

The big-screen adaptation of the August Wilson Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh, was both directed by and stars Washington. Resentful that baseball’s color barrier was broken after his own heyday in the Negro League and bitter with the circumstances of life, Maxson allows his frustrations and poor choices to negatively impact his relationships with those closest to him.

Both Washington and his co-star Viola Davis won Tony awards for their performances in the 2010 revival. Stephen Henderson and Mykelti Williamson also co-star and reprise their stage roles (Bono and Gabriel respectively).

You can click here to get to YouTube (newsletter subscribers) or watch the below video.

FENCES opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of FENCES on Monday, December 19 (Philly, PA)

Happy Sunday MMT Fam! I have a special last-minute giveaway this evening, and it’s sure to make 10 people and their guests very happy! We’ve acquired 10 admit-two passes to tomorrow night’s screening of FENCES in Center City.

To put your name in the hat, you must be a subscriber of this website (remember: both Facebook and website followers always double their chances) and send an email to with your full name in the body and the subject line FENCES. Ten winners will be selected and notified on Monday morning.

You can watch a snippet of my upcoming interview with “Fences” cast members Russell Hornsby and Jovan Adepo below, and get additional information about the film at the official website here.

FENCES opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.

Good luck family! Thomasena


MMT Review: VENGEANCE and Q & A with author Zane


If you’ve subscribed to my Examiner feed or to the MMT Facebook page, then you already know how excited I was to interview New York Times bestselling author Zane last Monday. Her latest book, VENGEANCE, was released on the following day, and she took time out of her busy schedule to fit in a phone call with yours truly.

Vengeance is a suspenseful and erotic novel, set in the same world as the two books that came before it – Addicted and Nervous, which both feature psychiatrist Dr. Marcella Spencer.  Following a protagonist named Wicket a.k.a Ladonna Sterling, a beautiful but emotionally damaged (diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder) pop star hell-bent on vengeance against the people responsible for her traumatic past, the book chronicles a journey of self-discovery, truth, healing and forgiveness – while highlighting such topics as family trauma, mental illness, and gender identity.

Open and extremely humble, Ms. Zane discussed everything from the new book to tolerance on social media, and even sounded off on what she felt about last week’s Billboard Music Awards tribute to the late singer/musician Prince.

Can you talk about the research process that goes into a project like this?

I did extensive research. And I’ve been blessed to get many compliments from psychiatrists after they read Addicted and Nervous, so hopefully I’ll get them after they read this book (laughs). In “Nervous,” the second book in the series, I actually tackled Multiple Personality Disorder. I had no idea that it was so prevalent in society until I wrote it. A friend’s mother, who died about a year and a half ago, actually had Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s really crazy to me that I used to think it was such a rare thing, but it’s not that rare. And it’s the same with Intermittent Explosive Disorder – it’s way more common than people think.

On the stigma attached to mental illness, especially among African-American and religious communities:

A lot of mental illness is masked behind religion. I have a relative, whom I believe may have Bipolar Disorder, that is finally considering seeking treatment. But she would use “God speaking to her” as a way of making excuses for what she does in her life. And it’s a stigma, but it can happen to anybody. Different circumstances and factors can influence it, but a lot of people are not getting help.

Because of the aforementioned, Zane allowed the main character in Vengeance to confront her family history, and in the process realize the cycle of “hurt people hurting people.” The author expressed wanting to illustrate a compassionate portrait of mental illness, in addition to displaying issues within the transgender community with the same consideration – particularly with the character Hannah, who becomes a mother figure to a younger Wicket.

I decided to do a transgender character because I noticed when I would post something on my Facebook page about the transgender community, some others would become really heated and post negative and mean comments. I kicked a couple of people out of one of my groups last night for that very reason. I don’t have any tolerance for people writing negative posts that are racially motivated or that deal with gender identity, because it’s just not right. 

On writing a tragic turn in Hannah’s story (slight spoiler):

I was so stressed out that day, I had to go get donuts from the store! I was in a hotel writing and had to go out literally to buy donuts and other comfort food to mentally prepare. I do get really deep into my writing – to me the characters take on a life form. And I wanted to explore that whole situation because so many transgender people are not accepted, and they just want to live like everyone else. In this case, Hannah’s parents had rejected her, and her whole life she just wanted to feel accepted. 

Zane mentioned taking her children on a recent trip to Atlanta’s Civil and Human Rights Center because she wanted them to see how others had dedicated and sacrificed their lives to obtain equal opportunity. Further driving home her point on acceptance and what she wants people to take away from the book, she shared:

I feel like everybody is entitled to live their lives. So, I hope that people will learn tolerance. Many are afraid of others simply because they don’t understand them. When I was child my father, an expert in World Religions, not only took me to our church, but to Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, and Seventh Day Adventists churches so I would have that exposure. And my parents also exposed me to different types of people – like on trips to Scotland where there were no other black people around at all! And I am very glad they raised me that way. I’ve become fascinated by various cultures and people, and I pretty much get along with everyone – as opposed to being scared of and making assumptions about others.

And on the MMT signature question – what artist’s biopic would she bring to the big screen?

I would say B.B. King. I am fascinated with the man he was and how much he accomplished. The first anniversary of his death just passed (May 14th) and I knew a lot about him, but learned much more recently. Like, one year he performed 342 shows – in that single year. And, until he was 70, he flew himself to many of his shows with a private pilot license. So to me, he was a highly energetic person, almost up to his death.

And the only reason I would not pick Prince – he is my favorite artist of all-time – is, although a lot of people are saying a bio is needed, I feel like he already did it on his own (Purple Rain).

And since she mentioned Prince, how did she feel about that Billboard Music Awards tribute?

There is no one they could have gotten to emulate him. But I appreciated that they let actual legends do the tribute – I’m a huge fan of both Madonna and Stevie Wonder – as opposed to someone younger like Drake. People like Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson have had decades long successes. It would have been nice, however, if they picked an upbeat song for the first – instead of “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  I think there would have been a negative reaction no matter who they chose (to perform), but people can’t take away that a legend honored another legend.

Although I agreed that Prince’s boots are too tall to fill, I shared that there were a few other living legends and older performers – like Sheila E., Chaka Khan, and The Time – that I wouldn’t have minded seeing invited – and that I am hoping the upcoming BET Awards tribute includes musical offspring like D’Angelo, Bilal and/or Janelle Monae and please, please, please invite Lenny Kravitz and Gary Clark Jr. on guitar!

But back to Vengeance, a quick and exciting read that I consumed in two days straight. Again, this novel has erotic content, and explicit language, so it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. I did ask Zane if she believed she had a huge following in the religious community to which she responded, “I’m speaking during a fundraiser at a church tonight!”

Vengeance was released May 24 and is available at retailers online and nationwide. Information on Zane’s book tour is listed on her Facebook page here.

PS: here’s holiday weekend giveaway #4! Want to win a “signed” copy of Vengeance? You must be a subscriber of this site, and send an email with your full name, address and the subject line “Revenge” to and answer the following: Name the 2014 movie based on a Zane novel and name one of the stars. I will select one winner at random and notify by Thursday, June 2.

Good luck family! Thomasena






Barbershop: The Next Cut

14 years ago, we met Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube), Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer), Terri Jones (Eve) and the rest of the eclectic crew in the original Barbershop film – where Calvin struggled with his desire to overcome financial burdens by selling the south side Chicago business his grandfather started, until he realized how vital the shop was to the community and the people who regularly gathered and worked. Two years later brought Barbershop 2, with Calvin and the barbershop staff facing gentrification and development issues in the neighborhood. And now Ice Cube and several original cast members – including the aforementioned, Sean Patrick Thomas, Anthony Anderson, and Deon Cole – and a few newcomers (Common, Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj) are back in the latest installment BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT.

In this third film, directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man Holiday) and co-written by Kenya Barris (Black*ish) & Tracy Oliver (Survivor’s Remorse), the audience finds Calvin once again contemplating selling the shop – but for a more selfless reason this go-round, as his need to keep his teenage son safe in a community impacted by gang violence has become increasingly difficult. The film explores this timely and socially relevant theme, with a few other storylines, the usual amount of humor, and a few tense and serious moments that allude to violence, but are still very appropriate for mature pre-teens & up (it has a PG-13 rating, so use your discretion).

A few weeks back, I spoke with stars Ice Cube and Deon Cole regarding the film. When I asked Cole to share his experience (Black*ish) and thoughts on Barris as storyteller he replied,

“His writing is wholesome, but real and necessary. And he brings that realness to any project he does without beating people over the head – but where they feel, ‘Yeah this actually happens.’ As soon as I knew he was writing, and with Cube and Malcolm D. Lee attached, I prayed every night to be a part of it.”

And viewing this film, the audience is certainly not “beat over the head” but given a look into a very real issue facing communities across the country, with much-needed humor interspersed – and without a doubt it gets barbershop real (watch out for the R. Kelly and Cosby jokes!) with the comedic styling of Cedric the Entertainer, Anthony Anderson, Deon Cole, Lamorne Morris and J.B. Smoove.

There are several things I loved about this film, from the positive display of fatherhood (and how to handle disagreements, with Common and Ice Cube’s characters) to a perfectly cast cameo/appearance by Jamal Woolard – who played the lead in Notorious – as gang leader Marquis. And I always enjoy watching young actor Michael Rainey Jr., who starred with Common in the Sheldon Candis film LUV (see MMT review here) and who currently plays Ghost and Tasha’s son Tariq on the hit show Power.

My only complaint is I would have loved to see Calvin’s wife Jennifer, portrayed by Jazsmin Lewis who’s been in all three films, given more screen time. I think she deserves a little more than a bit part.

But, it was a welcome addition to see Regina Hall whose character (Angie) merged her beauty salon with Calvin’s shop to help them both financially – which brings a completely new dynamic, men vs. women, on most debates inside the shop. Add into this mix a possible love triangle – Eve, Common, Nicki Minaj – and I’d say this movie offers something for everyone’s enjoyment.

Considering MMT gave three opportunities to advance screen, I’m hoping many of the Philly area fam can chime in on this one! What were your thoughts on the film? Who attended the screening with the special appearance by Ice Cube and Deon Cole?

BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT opens nationwide today April 15. And you can check out what Ice Cube told me about Cedric the Entertainer’s warning to the new cast members in my Examiner article here. 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena








MMT 2016 MS Awareness Month Spotlight: ‘INVISIBLE ILLNESS’ (video)

Invisible Illness

March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month and followers of this site know that not only am I a person living with MS, but will gladly use this platform to raise awareness – click here to select the dedicated MMT page and read past articles that feature Eric Roberson, Jennifer Holliday, and Rain Pryor sharing personal experiences about the disease.

This year, I am excited to share a documentary short entitled INVISIBLE ILLNESS: the New Face of MS by local filmmaker and fellow MS warrior Kimberly Wells. Ms. Wells was introduced to Multiple Sclerosis in 2013 – after being diagnosed at the age of 34. Since then, she’s been actively educating people about the autoimmune disease. Recently, her documentary short gained the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s attention for its resourcefulness as an awareness tool.

It is Ms. Wells’s goal to continue bring attention to this often misunderstood chronic illness – especially its impact within the African-American community, which has seen a significant increase in diagnosis rates.

I encourage you to not only watch this video short (approximately 24 minutes), but share it with as many people as possible. A bit of knowledge can go a long way in helping someone who may be delaying a doctor’s visit, seeking treatment for an unknown symptom, or those who may be diagnosed and just need to know that others can relate to their experiences.

And if you want to further help the cause, I am again participating as team captain of Walkin’ By Faith at this year’s Walk MS in Philadelphia on April 30 – so feel free to donate any amount here! All donations are tax-deductible and can greatly impact the MS community by funding research and resources – such as assisted living devices and expenses. You can learn more about multiple sclerosis, its symptoms and the National MS Society at the official website here.

Until next thought family, Thomasena