Wings of Freedom

Get thee behind me, whiskey! Spirit fights Demon Addiction in the gospel musical Wings of Freedom<i>.</i>

Get thee behind me, whiskey! Spirit fights Demon Addiction in the gospel musical Wings of Freedom.

Rated 3.0

Wings of Freedom is the first full-length production by Images Theatre Company, a relatively new black theater group. Images features several artists associated with And the Dream Goes On!—the landmark show staged twice (with a third run planned for next January) by California Musical Theatre’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Theatre Project. Specifically, Wings was created by writer and director Lisa Tarrer Lacy and estimable composer and performer Charles Cooper, with choreography by Wanel Thomas.

Comparisons are inevitable, if not apt. Both shows are gospel musicals with a message, but And the Dream Goes On! featured a big cast on a broad stage. Wings of Freedom is small (by design), in a cozy space, with a cast of six. It’s about overcoming addiction and destructive relationships. The story features four characters in denial about living on the edge. Liquor bottles, syringes, white powder and a crack pipe are among the props.

The show opens with a debate between the wholesome Spirit (Elaine Douglas) and Demon Addiction (Derrick Miller, with a black cape and a devil’s laugh). At around 75 minutes, the first act is long, talky and didactic, and it needs more music. Presently, there are just four songs in the first act. There’s good material, but the show’s creators should consider trims and revisions.

Things improve substantially after intermission. The pacing’s tighter, the story picks up momentum, and the characters at risk (well-played by groggy Michael Turner, doubtful Shelley Jones, giddy Stephen Lamar and nervy Natasha Greer) come to life as people with big problems who retain the potential to grow. Cooper’s greatest contribution comes in the last two uplifting songs, “Believe in Yourself” and “Wings of Freedom,” featuring strong singing by Douglas and the cast.