It's no secret that we here at Jasper - The Word on Columbia Arts just love us some Bobby Craft. He's the gifted singer/dancer/actor who has been impishly stealing scenes (and the hearts of audiences) since the 70's, playing everyone from the outrageous Jacob in La Cage aux Folles, to the charismatic Lead Player in Pippin, from Chorus Line's Richie to the Scarecrow in The Wiz. We love Broadway Bobby so much that we featured him in our second issue (which can still be found online at http://jaspercolumbia.net/current-issue/back-issues/.) Just say his name in the local theatre community, and you're sure to get a smile, and then a story about some backstage prank or onstage improvisation. We're still pretty sure he's the only dancer in town who has ever gotten away with ad-libbing some dance moves in the middle of a performance by the Columbia City Ballet.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered that the champ has a challenger! The contender is Chauntel Demetrius Bland, aka "Sweet Hot Cocoa." "SHC" as he's informally known is a new player on the performance scene, making a splash in recent shows at Town Theatre like Beauty and the Beast, and White Christmas, a line from the latter actually inspiring his unique sobriquet. An attorney by day, Bland has been arguing his case, making his appeal, and talkin' some serious smack as to who has the best moves: Broadway Bobby or Sweet Hot Cocoa? The solution is one only found within the arcane, near-legendary lore and traditions of community theatre: a dance-off!
This Saturday, Feb. 25th marks When the Cocoa Meets the Craft. Doors will open for music and dancing at 8:30 PM at Columbia's Town Theatre, located at 1012 Sumter Street, in the block between the State House and USC's Horseshoe. Where else but the nation's longest-operating community theatre for a battle of the ages between baby boomer Craft and Gen-Xer Bland? Refreshments, including cool beverages, will be available on the patio, door prizes will be awarded, and admission is a mere $5. But bring plenty of extra cash, for the opportunity to "donate" points to the contestant of your choice. You see, proceeds from the event will go towards the much-needed replacement of the Town Theatre roof, the cost of which is estimated at $50,000, so your generosity will help "raise the roof" both figuratively and literally!
Attendees are encouraged to arrive early and join the onstage dance party before enjoying the actual show, which begins at 9:30. Expect plenty of trash-talking from "managers" Chip Collins (seen in shows like Peter Pan and Harvey at Town, and the recent Chicago at the Kershaw Fine Arts Ctr.) and Rob Sprankle (South Pacific, The King And I, Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings) - we're thinking there'd better not be any folding chairs around. Also featured are musical performances by some of Town Theatre's finest, including Abigail Smith Ludwig, Mims Creed Goza, Giulia Dalbec-Matthews, Agnes Babb, Haley Sprankle, Grace Fanning, Lindsay Brasington, Cortlin Collins, Shelby Sessler, Kaitlyn Rainwater, Kathy Hartzog, Kate-Noel Kloppenbourg, Doug Gleason, Kyle L. Collins, Addie Taylor, Linda Posey, Laurel Posey, LeAndra Ellis-Gaston, Sirena Dib, Victoria Wilson, Lauren Veselak and Claire Sparks. And yes, that's the majority of the cast members from just about every musical produced at Town and/or anywhere else over the least year or two. There may be a surprise drop-in by religious leader "Rev. Cocoa,” and there's sure to be appearances by backup dancers "The Cocoa Puffs" and "The Razzle Dazzles."
Accompaniment for select numbers will be by ad-hoc house band Andy "Picante" Wells and The Jalapenos. (Wells accompanied Ludwig and Chip Collins on some lovely numbers from Chicago at the recent Jasper release party at the Arcade in January, so we're anticipating a whole lotta ivory-tickling goin' on. Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening are co-conspirators Frank Thompson (the smarmiest and most emcee-worthy of the Forever Plaid cast, who graciously arranged for his Chicago cast to perform at the Arcade event) and Shannon Willis Scruggs. Yep, "Forever" Patsy Cline herself, although she first warmed our hearts a lifetime ago on the Town Theatre stage as Dainty June, singing the "Moo Cow Song" in Gypsy. (That close runner-up finish in the Miss South Carolina pageant a few years back didn't hurt either.) Featured choreography is by Christy Shealy Mills and Kaitlyn Rainwater.
Then batten down the hatches, clear the decks, bar the doors and lock up your impressionable youngsters, as CHAUNTEL DEMETRIUS BLAND, AKA ”SWEET HOT COCOA” gets ready to rumble in THE MAIN EVENT with BROADWAY BOBBY CRAFT, in a dance-off to end all dance-offs! Winner gets bragging rights and all associated benefits attached thereunto and herewith. Who will come out on top? (Well, actually the new Town Theatre roof will, so it's all good. )
Don't miss this epic battle of the ages, when the sublime meets the ridiculous, and When the Cocoa Meets the Craft, this Saturday, Feb. 25th, 8:30 PM at Town Theatre.
-- August Krickel is the Theatre Editor for
Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts
Read more from August at www.jaspercolumbia.com