“Some of these themes are timeless, such as the tensions between father and son, and the experience of growing up black and gay in a red state, as Marty does. That said, the action takes place in 1960s Alabama, and so the Civil Rights Movement is a de facto character, shaping the musical present and futures of Marty and his gospel star father, Joe. At varying intervals, both characters are slapped with “Uncle Tom” labels by their community, in direct correlation with the growth of their financial prospects. Then as now, racial tensions and economics are interconnected.
Although the story is ostensibly Marty’s (and other idealistic, disillusioned, queer black men of the era for whom Marty speaks), it is Joe Roy’s voice we hear first. Given life by actor and Poi Dog Pondering band member Robert Cornelius, what a voice is it. The show opens with Joe’s barn burning, blues gospel number “That’s Why…” which is an instant classic.
In case you’re wondering what comes after the ellipses, the full chorus of the song is “That’s Why…He’s Jesus and You’re Not, Whitey.” The amazing soundtrack bursts with rich tunes that break the mold of traditional spirituals. They are infused with anger, pain, irreverence, passion, truth and hope. Irrespective of one’s relationship with the Holy Ghost, audience members will be summoned from their chairs and moved to their feet.”