“What these women become is what we will be,” Captain Larnyce Gaines gives the purpose of not only the three travelers from the future, but the underlying message of Futurology the Musical. The women finding power in themselves theme throughout this musical is its driving force and compelling feature.
The Paper to Pen production, which is Charles Weldon-directed, is the creative child of Anthony J. Dixon and Sandra J. Barnes, the writers of the story, music and lyrics. Dixon’s motivation was to “chronicle a young woman’s journey and challenges faced while maneuvering through life with modern media influences,” and began the process by working with Barnes and spoke to women of all ages about their perspectives.
Futurology follows three female intergalactic travelers from the year 2413, Captain Gaines (Gabrielle Lee), Lieutenant Mirvan (Tracie Franklin), and the android Mokia #1 (Vasthy Mompoint). On a journey in their spaceship, “The Saturn Majestic,” they are pulled towards the cries of a woman from the past in 2013, Darima Spencer, who will be an important messiah-like figure in history, but at the moment is feeling lost since her mother died and her father is absent, and seems to be more interested in becoming a star than giving her speech at a community rally with her boyfriend, Gregory (Rodrick Covington).
Dressed in their striking outfits — Mirvan in a glittery blue and yellow blouse and headwrap, neon blue leggins and long purple hair, Gaines in a long, glittery blue and yellow dress and a green afro (both had one single gold sleeve), and Mokia in a gold top and leggings with a beaded waist wrap and short blond hair — the women decided to become a part of Darima’s world as guardian angel-types. In one of the notable songs, “We’re Going Home,” a kind of neo-spiritual, establishes the musical’s story of the descendents becoming the guardians to the ancestors instead of the other way around, emphasizing the importance of the past and present shaping the future.
The cast does a good job fleshing out the show, with limited special effects and a simple set of blue and white boxed cascading walls, chairs desks and laptops, by balancing a heavy subject with a lot of humor, such as using jokes about the subway in New York is always delayed for some reason, all the artists named Lil’ ____, or the android Mokia adopting popular culture lingo and using her mind merging powers to change characters’ minds. Hillary Hawkins plays a Darima who is remains fresh-faced even as she is blinded and naive about wanting to be a star, but Hawkins is strengthened by her supporting cast — the three travelers, her shy and geeky best friend Annie (Tara Taylor), the obnoxious and image-obsessed Laverne (Yvette Williams) and the satirical sly, money-hungry, women and community-exploiting CEO and rapper, Gravy Train (Khalil Kain).
Two of the standout scenes were the transition of Annie from an unconfident, shy woman to a strong, sexy
woman who knows her worth. The first scene, which features Lt. Mirvan singing “Get Your Groove On,” was the result of a tense battle between Mirvan and Gaines (a kind of elder vs. youth fight) over whether attention should be paid to Annie or Gravy Train. That scene implied that sometimes focus on the smaller people than those at the top and influencing them can be as important, maybe even more, in changing others. The next scene where the women are in the hair salon and Annie receives a full transformation after reading a book, “The Lion and the Lamb,” showed the complexity of women and clearing up any slut-shaming. It is not about Darima changing into more revealing clothes that is the problem because Annie now is wearing revealing clothes, too; it was that she did it to please a man, Gravy Train.
But, the musical does fall a bit in a few areas. For example, although Laverne does provide several funny moments and is a character who is a good balance to the other characters, I wish there was another song to show off her complexity. Especially at the end when Lavern joins the others at the rally; the transition for her seem too quick and was not as convincing. It is times like this where the script could be expanded more. Another issue was the low sound problems, which took away at times some of the force of the melodic, moving songs.
Still, Futurology is a solid musical with a subversive story (I liked the goddess shirt Hillary wore at the end) and strong potential to grow. It’s message of female empowerment and responsibility to community to build a different future is inspiring. As said in the title song, “Let the spirit move you to reality.”