Reviews

A Sign of the Times ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 23, 2024: The 1960s was a period of great political and social upheaval. It was also a time when some pretty good music was made. A Sign of the Times, with a book by Lindsey Hope Perlman, makes great use of both. 

Crystal Lucas-Perry plays Tanya, and Chilina Kennedy plays Cindy,

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 23, 2024: The 1960s was a period of great political and social upheaval. It was also a time when some pretty good music was made. A Sign of the Times, with a book by Lindsey Hope Perlman, makes great use of both. 

The story, created by Richard J. Robin, focuses on a young lady named Cindy (Chilina Kennedy), who leaves her hometown, Centerville, Ohio, and her boyfriend, Matt (Justin Matthew Sargent), for New York City, to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer.

Chilina Kennedy (center).

On the way to New York, she meets Cody (Akron Lanier Watson), a Civil Rights movement protestor. And once arrived, she convinces Tanya (Crystal Lucas-Perry), an aspiring African American singer, they should become roommates. Cindy soon lands a job with an advertising agency. And before you know it, Tanya becomes involved with Matt, while Cindy falls for her boss, the slick and slimy Brian ( Ryan Silverman), with only an occasional pang for Matt, who is drafted and sent to Viet Nam.

Okay, so the story might not set the world on fire. But the way all those pop hits are inserted into it is truly exceptional. The score relies heavily on the catalogues of Petula Clark (“Downtown,” “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” “I Know a Place,” “It’s a Sign of the Times”). And there are wonderful assists from Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,” made famous by Nancy Sinatra, and Janice Ian’s “Society’s Child.”

But the real standouts are Watson’s rousing rendition of Walter E. Brown’s anthem and Elvis Presley’s hit ”If I Can Dream”; Sargent’s heartfelt and bitter “Eve of Destruction,” a protest song written by P.F. Sloan and most memorably recorded by the gravel-voiced Barry McGuire; and finally Kennedy’s tour de force, Lesley Gore’s Iconic “You Don’t Own Me,” complete with a chorus of Playboy bunnies throwing off their ears.

Akron Lanier Watson (center) plays Cody.

In fact, director Gabriel Barre has assembled a truly talented team of lead and ensemble actors who can sing and dance up a storm (JoAnn M. Hunter is the choreographer). Johanna Pan’s costumes are so spot-on I think I wore one or two of those dresses in high school. And scenic designer Evan Adamson worked brilliantly with lighting designer Ken Billington and projection designer Brad Peterson to recreate the 60s vibe.

One might well ask how a musical set in 1965 could possibly not include a single song by The Beatles or Nobel Prize-winner Bob Dylan, both of whose work had the most lasting effects on the music that was to come. This is a hard question to answer. Far better to just enjoy the show and leave such musings to copyright lawyers.

A Sign of the Times ***1/2
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street, New York, NY, 10019
Running Time 2 Hours and 30 Minutes
February 7 – June 2, 2024
Photography: Jeremy Daniel

Alyssa Carol, Melessie Clark, Chilina Kennedy, 
Lena Teresa Matthews, and Erica Simone Barnett.
Justin Showell, J Savage, Ryan Silverman, Michael Starr, 
Edward Staudenmayer, and Kuppi Alec Jessop
.