From the beginning, “Boudin: The New Orleans Music Project,” takes grip of you. Starting with Phillip Manuel singing a song while Joshua Smith beatboxed down the stairs, to the end, where any reservations based off of “proper theater etiquette” was left at the door, with the audience clapping and singing along; the play devolving into a concert, the kind of impromptu jam that happens in the back of bars late at night, where a story leads to someone providing a guitar via a hand of god, and before you know it a 20 minute rendition of a two-minute song has occurred. That is what the play felt like, as we all were clapping and singing along, and I get the impression that is exactly what everyone involved in “Boudin: The New Orleans Music Project” wanted.
The strength of “Boudin: The New Orleans Music Project” comes from New Orleanians. New Orleanians essentially wrote the project, as the monologues and stories come from 1000 of hours of interviews conducted by the “Story Krewe” who asked the question “How has New Orleans’ music saved your soul?”
Boudin was staged at the Ashe Power Hose Theater on 1731 Baronne St. for over a month (from April 15th –May 17th.) Initiated and directed by Sean Daniels, with Jay Weigel as the music director (he was the former director of the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center) the performance played between genres, telling a story of New Orleans through music and monologues. Presented by Southern Rep and WWOZ, as well as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Music Festival, Boudin was very much a passion project that pays homage to the city of New Orleans’ rich music culture.
So many different perspectives bled into each other to the point where you didn’t view them as different vantage points of the city of New Orleans, you just viewed them as in the context of New Orleanians. Some stories were presented multiple times throughout the event, others were one-offs. Some made you laugh, others, like the powerful story by the amazing Natalie Jones, who told a story of a person singing “His eye is on the sparrow” while leaving after Hurricane Katrina, had the entire audience tuned in quietly, as the story and song ate all the space in the room.
Singers such as Phillip Manuel and Dorian Rush were extremely powerful, themselves being characters of New Orleans, and retelling the tales of the city through song and monologue, as if you were hearing it in a bar. It was a performance that resonated deeply with me, and has me singing Louis Prima and “His eye is on the sparrow” for the foreseeable future.