Alas, it is only a dream. Immediately afterward, another black girl calls Bubbly a âpathetic Oreoâ and worse. (Itâs true that she prefers her white Chitty Chatty doll to the black one her parents conscientiously foist on her.) Soon, heading home from a party with a boy (Korey Jackson), she watches in horror as he is accosted by the police for the crime of walking while black.
This is not dramaturgy that the musical theater bible approves. Showbiz satire, as when Bubbly eventually moves to New York and auditions for a creepy, Bob Fosse-like genius, should not mix with the unvarnished pain of racism in America. The four girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing in 1963 loom large in Bubblyâs imagination and in the director Robert OâHaraâs pungent, often hilarious production.
Yet to advert to rules of tonal consistency is to impose an external, puristic point of view on material that is wonderfully motley and personal. Profound questions of identity and silly ones of stardom mix in Bubblyâs life, just as they did in the life of Ms. Childs, who was herself a dancer, having performed in several Bob Fosse shows, including âChicagoâ and âSweet Charity,â on tour and on Broadway. When she wrote âBubbly Black Girl,â Ms. Childs did not even know how to notate music, so she developed her own method of composition, involving the complicated layering of tracks she sang on a series of cassette tapes.
The result, for all its idiosyncrasy, rings authentic. Because Bubbly, whose real name is Viveca, is as varied on the inside as her hairstyles are on the outside, Ms. Childs gives her (and the rest of the cast) songs that high-tail from R&B to jazz to gospel to Broadway. Each style is completely appealing, if perhaps too quickly discarded, much as Bubblyâs experiments with various ways of representing her blackness are dropped, one by one. It isnât until after the Fosse character says, during an…