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Naughty but Nice: There’s no holiday like Christmas at a South Dallas juke joint

MIKE McGEE | 12/28/2015, 10:53 a.m.
In the musical Naughty but Nice, The Soul Rep Theater Company – and “Ms. D,” the fictitious proprietor of equally ...
Djore Nance and LaLa Johnson, as "Wayne" and "Loretta," two lively regulars of The Yellow Rose Lounge and Grill in the Soul Rep Theatre production Naughty but Nice. Anyika McMillan-Herod

The Dallas Examiner

In the musical Naughty but Nice, The Soul Rep Theater Company – and “Ms. D,” the fictitious proprietor of equally fictional The Yellow Rose Lounge and Grill – offered audiences the flavor of a South Dallas juke joint last week at The South Dallas Cultural Center.

The cabaret-style theater piece, written by Anyika McMillan-Herod and directed by Phyllis Cicero, presented to audience members a glimpse of the nightspot locked down due to dangerous weather on Christmas Eve.

In fact, some audience members were able to be seated at tables on the stage that served as the floor of The Yellow Rose. Members of the crowd became customers in the lounge and participants in some of the acts presented.

Naughty but Nice involves the “last hurrah” for owner Kathleen Devereaux/Ms. D (Monique Ridge-Williams) and her regular customers where song and dance acts are part of the nightly entertainment.

As Ms. D’s customers lament the passing of the Lounge due to the redevelopment of the neighborhood, the holiday chill in the air, mixed with a warmth provided by friendship – and a stiff drink, or several – encourages the patrons to sing, dance and celebrate the Christmas season with some favorite yuletide songs as well as a few selections that add spice to the evening.

Along with the musical numbers, supported by a live combo of musicians, there is a sentimental lesson within the story about miracles as well as criticism on how changes in South Dallas are endangering traditional, established neighborhood businesses.

“I feel, we feel, that we’re being pushed out for progress,” the character of Chuck (Terrance Knight) calls out near the end of the show as he mourns the potential fate of real-life spots like The Yellow Rose.

“Yes, yes. It’s changing so very much,” commented actress Shayla Kelley after the show upon the transformations occurring in the neighborhoods of the real city.

“Expanding; change in population. It’s growing so much,” she continued.

The production mostly served as a holiday showcase to present the vocal skills of numerous Metroplex-based performers. McMillan-Herod created a show that is warmhearted in its sentiment and varied in the musical material. Holiday favorites such as The Christmas Song and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas were performed delightfully by the cast live.

Naught but Nice is both nice and naughty, however, and recommended by Soul Rep for a more adult audience.

There are more than a few flashes of risqué humor. Songs such as My Ding-a-ling and I Need a Man down My Chimney are performed along with the more traditional Christmas tunes. When the character of a drunken police officer begins singing Amazing Grace and ends up singing Trim Your Tree while doing a striptease, it is clear that the script was written for a select audience.

Kelley also touched on the subject of the adult content as she described how she prepared for her part as the earthy barfly Jazzmore.

“My character is drunk so I got drunk a little bit to see what that space is,” she remarked on her method to finding the essence of her decidedly warm and jolly role.

“Why is she here on Christmas Eve and spending it with these people?” Kelley wondered about a possible darker side to Jazzmore. “Why is she not at Christmas with her family?”

Nothing was outright offensive about the show – as long as viewers knew what they were in for – and the audience seemed to enjoy both the standard and the bawdy offerings.

The theater hopes to bring the show back for 2016 according to Guinea Bennett-Price, the artistic director of the company, who also played Gladys, the waitress of the lounge.

“Get the word out,” she stated.

Audiences will be pleased by the traditional music as well as the more modern interpretations of some songs, should the production indeed return next year. They will have a laugh at the mature material and have their heartstrings tugged with the overall tone of the production, too.

Perhaps Naughty but Nice is not a show for everyone, but for everyone who attends with an open mind and a desire to have fun, the musical is a nice addition to the already large lineup of Christmas shows found in local theaters.