|Photo by Michal Daniel|
Daniel Alexander Jones conceived of Jomama Jones -- a sultry 1980s R&B singer who left the United States because its soul had gotten too hard -- back in the 1990s while living and working in the Twin Cities. This week, he brings back the fully fledged creation, complete with a hot band and a powerful message about staying human in tough times.
The piece, which plays through next week at the Pillsbury House Theatre, is not to be missed. Part personal history lesson, part self-help evening, Jomama Jones Radiate Live! attempts to bring warmth and heartfelt wishes to a calcified America.
Some back story: Jomama was a hit songstress during the early 1980s, crafting a string of classic soulful R&B tunes. Her growing dissatisfaction with Reagan-era America didn't sit well with her record company. At that moment, she decided to escape the country for Switzerland, where she has lived since. (On the side of the mountain, with goats, we learn.)
The show is presented as part of not just a comeback tour, but a de Tocqueville-like look at America today. From her perch in the Swiss Alps, Jomama had heard that Americans had gotten hard and closed. So she wanted to find out for herself, and see if she could open some minds and hearts on her own.
The evening features a mix of songs (written with Bobby Halvorson, who also plays guitar in the band), stories from Jomama's life, a bit of audience interaction, and words of wisdom from our star.
This isn't a "wink wink, nudge nudge" kind of drag act. Jones's character is full of power and dignity (and looks really good in the dresses and heels crafted by Oana Botez). Sure, there is plenty of humor in the role, but it seems to emerge naturally from the character. When she talks of traveling to the CERN Large Hadron Collider to get them to kindly turn it off (it's keeping her goats up at night, which is keeping her up at night as well) it feels well within her character -- as does her suggestion that if you want to know about the moments after the Big Bang, just close your eyes and listen.
The band is tight and the songs are solid. This isn't a traditional musical, or even something like Hedwig, where the songs serve as a way to tell the story. Instead, they work to underscore Jomama's overall message. All together, it makes for a riveting, thrilling, and heart-warming two hours. Just the kind of mood Jomama wants to spread.
IF YOU GO
Jomama Jones Radiate Live!
Through June 24
Pillsbury House Theatre
3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis.
For information, call 612.825.0459 or visit online.
3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN