By Eric J. Grimm
Thuli Dumakude, with her powerful voice of both resistance to oppressive forces and celebration of joy and the human spirit is the perfect antidote to post-election holiday blues. Her new show Sing!, now playing at the Theater at St. Clements, is an infectious blend of South African and American holiday tunes promoting her home country’s Christmas traditions while taking on English language holiday songs with charm and passion. Dumakude is a warm and commanding host, easy to be heard and felt as she kindly shares her love of country and natural skill for entertaining.
Dumakude rather strictly encourages audience participation in her celebration of holiday joy. As she tells the story of how housewives in South Africa welcome their husbands and sons home from long stretches as migrant workers, singing and clapping along are mandatory and merely observing or not singing and clapping loud enough will be met with a frown. And the audience needs this as a way of breaking from seasonal depression and a twenty-four hour news cycle. Even if she weren’t a virtuosic performer, the sheer energy and determination to bring happiness to her adoring audience, a standing room only crowd at this performance, would shine through. As such, she sings richly and effortlessly, showcasing a beautifully seasoned performance style. Aided by musical director Mthakathi, who loops myriad instruments live to create a big and textured sound that fills the space, Dumakude sings to the rafters, ready for a vast concert hall, but more than happy to thrill a small church theater.
Sing! is playing at Theater at St. Clements (423 W. 46th St.) through December 31. Tickets are available at http://www.singcelebration.com