Mixed Blood Theatre’s world premiere of Jevetta Steele’s Two Queens, One Castle, a hands-down hit here and elsewhere, set box office records at Horizon Theatre (Atlanta) and Metro Stage (Washington, D.C.), broke strong social ground and marked a theatrical milestone. In America, anyway.
Book and lyrics by Jevetta Steele and Thomas W. Jones II, music by J.D. Steele and William Hubbard, musical director Sanford Moore. Directed by Thomas W. Jones II. Two Queens, One Castle runs Sept. 19 thru Oct. 7 at the Music Box Theater, 1407 Nicollet Ave. downtown Minneapolis. For ticket prices and times, call the Mixed Blood box office at 612.338.6131 or visit www.mixedblood.com.
A long faithful wife and dutifully nurturing mother comes home one day to find her husband in bed with his boyfriend. At which point, the you-know-what profoundly hits the proverbial fan. This scenario, hardly foreign to French literature, challenges this society’s sensibilities to acknowledge and join the real world. It is an especially hot-button issue for Black Americans. Add to it that the production affords Jevetta Steele, the first lady of song, a sterling showcase and Two Queens, One Castle stands as a singular triumph.
Jevetta Steele is no stranger to stardom. Along with her celebrity as part with of the world-traveled group The Steeles (with her siblings), her solo career is nothing short of stratospheric. Point Of Revue (Mixed Blood Theatre, 2006) boasted the playwriting of Hollywood’s Don Cheadle, marquee authors Kia Corthron, Carlyle Brown and Syl Jones; but it was Steele’s name – synonymous with hellified singing — that put behinds in the seats for sold-out performances.
In case you just arrived from Mars or have been living completely out of the entertainment loop, among her greater claims to fame is the fact that she starred with Morgan Freeman and Isabel Monk in the original Broadway cast of The Gospel at Colonus and performed in both the national and the international tour. She also was featured in the opera God, Mississippi & A Man Named Evers with the New Jersey Symphony and most recently, Letters To Rosa, A Tribute To Rosa Parks with the Detroit Symphony. And there’ve been, along with Point Of Revue, hit musicals at Mixed Blood Theatre including Black Belts I, II and III and Bill of W(R)ights. Steele cut an incredible solo album for the Columbia label which, corporate shortsightedness prevailing, was allowed to go out of print and is well worth scouring used and out-of-print shops to find. She was featured on soundtracks for the films Corrina, Corrina (with Ray Liotta, Don Ameche and Joan Cusack) and Baghdad Café (with CCH Pounder and Jack Palance) for which her performance of “Calling You” garnered an Academy Award nomination. There’s a whole laundry list more, including stints on-stage at Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater as well as tours of London, Amsterdam and Brazil, but I’m sure you get the gist.
When Jevetta Steele opens Two Queens, One Castle with “So You Wanna Know,” belting crystal clear, soul-deep blues irresistibly set to churning rhythm, all you can do is sit there and sigh, “Damn!” Don’t worry, God will forgive you. Steele, steeped in gospel, smoking in R&B, silky smooth in jazz, moves you to places you never any idea ever existed. And does that the whole night long. By the time she’s done – and is ready to blow an encore off all four walls – you need a breather just to remember you’re still in your skin.