Guild Theatre

2828 35th St.
Sacramento, CA 95817

(916) 732-4673

Rated 4.0

How do you put 500 years of history into a two-hour musical? It helps if you’re playwright Lisa Lacy, artistic director of Images Theatre Company, and your brother is composer Charlie Cooper Jr. Otherwise, it might be too much to handle. Instead, we get Legacy, a showcase of spoken word and vocal performance that manages to compress the history of the black experience in the United States into two acts.

That does, of course, necessitate a bit of simplification and the use of one-stands-for-many imagery; nonetheless, and perhaps because of the familiarity of the sections of the narrative that Lacy opts to showcase, it works. The overriding theme is one of respect for those who came before, which lends itself to storytelling. Some sections are surprisingly funny, like the personification of Jim Crow in an Uncle Sam suit (performed with tongue only slightly in cheek by Ricky Taylor Jr.). Others are heart-rending, such as the depiction of lynching in the sequence “Death of Dreams,” in which a young man mourns his lynched mother.

The songs are gospel-infused with a strong dose of the blues, and the show closes with a crowd-rousing anthem to the power of history.