Jomama Jones * Radiate

An R&B diva returns.

  • Photograph: Nisha Sondhe

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Photograph: Nisha Sondhe

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Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Decked out in sequins, with a spherical Afro that frames her head like a halo in medieval art, Jomama Jones is a paradigm of R&B-diva grandeur circa 1982. In Radiate, her Soho Rep concert show and CD-launch party, her proud blackness is set off against curtains as white as Whoopi Goldberg's milk bath in the Leibovitz portrait. Jomama has returned from the exile that followed the collapse of her career a quarter century ago. Her impeccable posture and elocution bespeak an old-school black-star dignity: She may swivel and pose, but she will never kneel.

Created and performed by Daniel Alexander Jones, Jomama has clearly been fashioned with love and attention to detail. She delivers her Soul Train--ready musical numbers with warm charisma, bolstered by a lively five-piece band (led by Bobby Halvorson, who cowrote the score) and a pair of sensational backup singers, Helga Davis and Sonja Perryman. But Radiate's songs are neither satirical nor dramatic; they are stand-alone pastiche that reveal little about the singer. Between tunes, Jomama urges a philosophy of strength and support, and touches on her fall from the Ebony tower. ("Black power got turned off," she recalls pointedly. "Somebody didn't pay the bills.") But there is not enough such material, and the show is ungainly; Jones and director Kym Moore are good at whipping up audience energy, but they don't seem to know what to do with it. In a different venue, such as Joe's Pub, Radiate would probably make a very entertaining nightclub act. As theater, it hasn't quite found its groove.

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Soho Rep. Music and lyrics by Daniel Alexander Jones and Bobby Halvorson. Dir. Kym Moore. With Jones. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.