He is only 10 years old, but Bud has the type of resilience and resourcefulness that will inspire all those who see his journey unfold on stage for the Metro Theater and Jazz St. Louis presentation of “Bud, Not Buddy” playing through February 25 at The Grandel Theatre.
Based on the Newberry Medal-winning book of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis, in the play young Bud is alone in the thick of the Great Depression. He decides to escape his less-than-ideal surroundings in Flint, Michigan to find his family’s roots. Fueled by his love of jazz, Bud believes his natural gravitation towards the music is a clue to where he belongs. A flyer he keeps among his most cherished keepsakes gives him a starting point on his map to self-discovery.
Metro Theater’s staging is the national company debut for production of the play, which debuted at Kennedy Center in 2016. It’s a distinction that they didn’t take lightly. Director Julia Flood, Metro Theater’s artistic director, created a pace that maintains the attention of young audiences – and is aided by the convincing portrayals of the all-adult ensemble of players that take on a host of roles to tell Bud’s story.
The set is minimal, but the language of Kirsten Greenidge’s stage adaptation and the energy of the actors is successful in encouraging the audience to use their imaginations. The only indulgence of the play as far as production is the live ensemble led by Jazz St. Louis Director of Education Phil Dunlap that delivers the musical backdrop scored by Grammy winner Terence Blanchard.
Though the play doesn’t specifically point out well-known figures or situations, “Bud, Not Buddy” is still an illustration of black history. The play references sundown towns as well as the ills of segregation and bigotry in a manner that is insightful without being too heavy for young audiences.
An effectively gelled and energetic cast of performers allows for serious subjects like death and mistreatment within the foster care system to be handled without a damper on what is ultimately a feel-good story.
There may be a tinge of disappointment that adult actor Myke Andrews leads the cast as Bud, but audiences see early on that he captures the spirit and essence of the child he is portraying. The entire crew of performers – including FeliceSkye Hutchinson, Nicholas Kryah, Don McClendon, Carl Overly Jr., Reginald Pierre, Antony Terrell and Chris Ware – proved themselves an asset to the production with genuine chemistry that made them fun to watch.
“Bud, Not Buddy,” is as motivational as it is inspirational. Viewers young and old see young Bud take action – instead of merely dreaming or waiting for someone to lead him to his happily ever after.
Metro Theater Company and Jazz St. Louis’ presentation of “Bud, Not Buddy” will continue through February 25 at The Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Sq., 63108. For a full schedule of show times and additional information, visit www.metroplays.org.