A combination of talented actors, live music, and a witty script, Wind Me Up, Maria! A Go-Go Musical is an amusing modern day take on The Sound of Music. The play is set in Georgetown, making for a variety of references relatable to Georgetown University students such as the dining hall, “Leo’s” and the local coffee shop, Saxby’s. The play, however, explores a more unfamiliar realm with its emphasis on “Go-go” music, a variation of the funk genre that originated in Washington DC, and its representation of DC’s diverse history and culture. The play was written and directed by Georgetown Professor Natsu Onoda Power and Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris, the lead singer of D.C. Go-Go band, Rare Essence. Playing from Nov. 3-12 in the Davis Performing Arts Center, Gonda Theater, Wind Me Up, Maria! is a fun-filled and intriguing show that will keep the audience laughing through its duration.
The play opens with the main character, Maria Anacostia (Myiah Sahulga Smith, SFS ‘20), and her roommate, Morgan (Vanessa Chapoy, COL ‘18), dancing at a Go-Go club. Maria needs a job and a place to stay for the summer as she has procrastinated making her summer plans until last minute. Thanks to a helpful recommendation from her teacher, Professor Sherry (Kate Ginna, COL’ 18), Maria ends up as a live-in tutor for Ms. Kay Street’s (Mar J. Cox, COL ‘16) children.
Right from the start of the play, it is evident that diversity is an important overarching theme. In addition to the central focus on black heritage in Washington D.C., there is clear representation of a wide range of identities from race and ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation. The main characters themselves, Maria, a young African American woman, and Morgan, a hispanic woman trying to get back in touch with her heritage are testaments to the aforementioned diversity. Maria’s name itself, “Anacostia,” is clearly rooted in DC’s landscape. This is cross-referenced with Ms. Kay Street’s name, an allusion to “K Street,” one of DC’s wealthiest areas. Appropriately, Ms. Kay’s children are undeniably sheltered and act as a mechanism to exaggerate the pressure of educated people to be constantly politically correct. They introduce themselves by their names, age, countries of birth, and pronouns when they first meet Maria, and they always insist that their mother raised them to never judge a person by anything except his or her morals as a human being, regardless of identity.
When Maria realizes that these children have lived in Washington DC for most of their lives and do not know anything about its history or culture, she sets out on a mission to break them out of their bubble. She teaches them about African American culture in the area, starting with a field trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl where she shows them a picture of Chuck Brown, also known as “The Godfather of Go-Go.” This is the start of the children’s introduction to Go-Go that develops into a deep love and enjoyment for the music. The audience learns to love Go-Go alongside the Street children after spending two hours listening to a live band play go-go rhythms. While the lyrics are certainly witty, it is the music that resonates with listeners, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
Like any good story, there are romantic subplots woven into the bigger picture. The first romance is subtler, taking place between Maria and Barnaby (David Toledo, MSB ‘19), a man who works in the Go-Go industry. The second romance is an interracial, homosexual romance between Ms. Kay’s son, Joseph (Ray Gao, COL ‘19) and the FedEx guy, Terrance (Jonathan Austin Kyle Compo, NHS ‘20). It is reminiscent of The Sound of Music’s romance between Leisl, one of the von Trapp daughters, and Rolf, the telegram delivery boy. The strange relationship between Joseph and Terrance is a great modern twist that plays a significant role in stressing diversity within the musical. Although Joseph and Terrance are quietly in love with each other, they have a rather large impact on how the play progresses and reaches a climax.
Wind Me Up thrives on its ability to combine the known and unknown. Subtle references to college life at Georgetown strike a chord with any student watching while the overarching plot surrounding the development of go-go music will allow the audience to understand and appreciate the genre. Like Ms. Kay’s children, most of the audience has probably not been introduced to go-go music in depth. This play is laugh out loud funny and will have the audience dancing along in their seats. With the play’s wide range of diversity, each audience member will find a character who he or she can identify with whether it’s a kale-chip loving, studious child who identifies by nonbinary gender pronouns, a highly educated, homosexual black woman with a knack for travelling, or the Godfather of Go-Go himself.