Date: 10/23/1961 - 11/18/1961 (32 Performances)

Location: 54th Street Theatre

 

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Produced by: Alfred De Liagre, Jr.

Directed by: Robert Lewis

Music by: Richard Adler

Choreographed by: Agnes De Mille

Also Starring: Sally Ann Howes, Ethel Ayler, Norman Barrs, Rex Ingram, Brock Peters

Terry's Character: Kwamina (Peter) - title role

Genre: Musical / Original

Plot Summary: A Musical in Two Acts, 15 Scenes. The action takes place in a village in West Africa at the present time.

 

Act I:

A country in West Africa, soon to win independence from British rule, is torn between its ancient superstitions and its yearning for freedom and democracy. As the curtain rises, a tribal chief, Nana Mwalla lies dying. Though Obitsebi, the fetish man, tries to heal him with magic, it is the white lady doctor, Eve Jordan, who is really responsible for the old man's recovery. The chief now goes ahead with his preparations for the imminent arrival of his son, Kwamina Mwalla, about to return to his home after years of medical study in London. The only ones who are a bit down-cast about this are the lovers, Naii and Ako, since Naii has been betrothed to Kwamina from birth. But Ako, who is the overseer of the local cocoa bean plantation, has work to do and he and his men go off to the fields.

When Kwamina arrives, he is first greeted warmly by Obitsebi, his old friend, though friction soon develops between the fetish man and the medical school doctor. This, however, cannot dampen the enthusiasm of the elaborate homecoming ceremony.

The local clinic where Eve works adheres strictly to the principle of segregation with one entrance marked "Europeans" and the other marked "Natives." When Kwamina arrives to take up his duties, he promptly gets into a fight with Blair, the British Commissioner, who forbids him from using the European entrance. Eve, who was born in Africa, tries to apologize to Kwamina, but he resents her expressions of sympathy and she objects to his stubbornness. When they have calmed down, they again make an attempt to be friends but this is blocked when Eve explains the necessity of compromising with Obitsebi. After another hot-tempered exchange, Eve makes fun of Kwamina's London-acquired manners.

Tribal customs also have their humourous side. In the village Nana Mwalla passes judgment on Akufo, a tribesman suspected of adultery. His punishment: a fine of Seven Sheep, Four Red Shirts, and a Bottle of Gin.
That night Ako and Naii meet in secret near the clinic. Because he sees no hope of their marrying, Ako tells of his decision to go off to the city and they leave together. Blair, escorting Eve to the clinic, expresses his deep feelings for her, but she rebuffs him. Later, she has her first friendly talk with Kwamina in his office, but Blair sees them together and suspects the worst.

Later, everyone is gathered together and, with much excitement, the people sing of their coming freedom. Meanwhile, Eve finally convinces Kwamina that she is really his friend, but they both are aware that it is impossible for them to behave like ordinary people.

At a bazaar in town, Kwamina comes across Ako selling saris and he buys one as a present for Eve. When Ako explains why he has run away, Kwamina offers no objections to his marrying Naii.

Back at the village, Nana Mwalla tries to talk with Kwamina about marrying Naii, but his son refuses to discuss the matter. When they are alone, Obitsebi explains to the weary chief that they cannot escape from their fate.

Eve and Kwamina meet in the woods. Not only does he give her the sari, but he even gives her his tribal bracelet. When he leaves, Eve is quite over-come with her feelings toward Kwamina. At the clinic, the troubled young people, unable to resolve their emotional dilemma, can hide their feelings no longer and rush into each other's arms.

 

Act II:

Still determined that Naii marry Kwamina, Obitsebi brings her to the compound for her pre-nuptial ceremony. Excited about the forthcoming wedding, the women of the village are discussing marriage with Naii at the clinic. After they leave, Ako enters, and he and Naii escape. But, Obitsebi sees them and is immediately off in pursuit. Left alone with Kwamina, Eve tells him that she must leave because she does not want to spend her life loving in secret.

When Naii and Ako are apprehended, Obitsebi, in spite of Kwamina's protests, decrees that they must die. Suddenly, Nana Mwalla has a seizure and falls dead. Although, according to tribal custom, three tribesmen must be put to death when the chief dies, Kwamina takes his people to the House of Ancestors to hide them from Obitsebi. The men of the tribe, however, perform a frenzied fetish dance to bring about the deaths. Kwamina scoffs at these antics, but the witch doctor informs him that Ako, and Naii, and also Akufo are dead. And, to his horror, Kwamina discovers that it is true.

On Independence Day, Eve comforts the unhappy Kwamina by insisting that this is not the end but the beginning. The natives also pledge their help in building a new country, and on this optimistic note the curtain falls.

 

Notes: Kwamina was nominated for 3 Tony Awards in 1962: Richard Adler for Best Composer, Motley for Best Costume Design and Agnes De Mille for Best Choreography

Brock Peters who played the role of Obitsebi would 18 years later again star next to Terry on Battlestar Galactica as Chief Oposer Solon in the episode "Murder on the Rising Star", Season 1 Episode 18