Je’Caryous Johnson brought his all-star cast stage play, “Set it Off” to the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles from May 4-6 and this Angeleno was curious to see how the hit movie would be adapted into a stage play. I took in the Saturday matinee performance, which was MC’d by Los Angeles KJLH radio personality Lon McQ and rushed home to write this review. Well I took a nap first and then I wrote this review, but I digress.
The movie version of “Set it Off” starred Queen Latifah (Cleo), Vivica A. Fox (Frankie), Kimberly Elise (Titi) and Jada Pinkett-Smith (Stoney). How does one follow in the footsteps of those women? Well, let me tell you … I am thinking Da Brat (Cleo), Letoya Luckett (Frankie), Demetria McKinney (Titi) and Kyla Pratt (Stoney) have made the original cast members very proud because they did the characters justice.
Da Brat, who made her theatrical debut in the play, was my absolute favorite. She played Cleo to perfection. She was funny as all get out and kept the audience laughing. You cannot have Da Brat without some rap. That was pretty cool as well. Letoya Luckett channeled Vivica A. Fox’s Frankie to the point where it could have been Vivica. She was very convincing. “What is the procedure when you have a gun to your head?” I have been watching Demetria McKinney on Saints and Sinners, where she plays a character totally unlike Titi, which just shows her true acting talent and range. Los Angeles’ own Kyla Pratt has been acting for a minute now. I recall seeing her as a preteen on Walker, Texas Ranger. Seeing her play Stoney shows she is truly all grown up.
Although the four females were clearly the stars of the show, the other cast members were no slouches and more than held their own. Being a Blair Underwood (Keith in the movie) fan, I have to admit I scrutinized Ali’ Carter’s performance as Keith and he passed. Javon Johnson (Luther) looked anything but like Javon Johnson. Wow, what a bad wig will do. Other cast members were Juhahn Jones (Stevie/Darnell), Michael Finn (Detective Strode), Bakesta King (Detective Walker), Mike Strong (Lorenzo/Lucious), Carson Pursely (Kelly/Teller/Social Worker) and Erica Pinkett (Ursula).
Seeing Cleo, Frankie, Titi and Stoney 22 years after “Set it Off” the movie, was pretty cool. The stage play stayed very close to the movie, with a few changes and a “Black Panther” (Wakanda) reference thrown in, which gave the play a sense of being current. There is so much more I could say about this play; however, I do not want to spoil it for anyone who plans to see it. I will just say I loved it and judging by the audience reaction, I am not alone.
“Set it Off” has been playing to sold out crowds across the country, with final upcoming stops in Washington DC (May 11 and 12) and Norfolk, VA (May 13). If you are in one of those areas, this is a play well worth seeing because Je’Caryous Johnson has done it again!
And special thanks to Associate producer Linda Stewart for the hook up.