Cuttin' contests began in the streets of New Orleans when bands engaged in publicizing themselves encountered each other in the streets. The wagons they were riding on would get tied together so than neither side could leave until the contest was decided. These events became so popular that promoters began to organize them.
Cuttin' contents are also at the center of the Denver Center Theatre Company's world premiere of Michael Genet's Pork Pie: A Mythic Jazz Fable. The tale is narrated by The Storyteller, a marvelous combination poet, rapper, and Baptist preacher as performed by Roger Robinson.
At the center of the story are two men, Charlie, a piano player, and Volcy, a saxophonist and vocalist, bound together by family ties and a passion for music, conditions that lead both of them to a cuttin' contest with the Devil's wife and her agent, The Champion. If they're beaten, Charlie and Volcy stand to lose their souls, but if they win, they get to wear the Pork Pie hat, symbol of musical supremacy.
Backed up by a live, flawlessly synched quintet that supplies a host of fine solos and catchy rhythms, Ron Jones, as Charlie, and Bobby Daye, as Volcy, lead us from their magical home in Darlington County, South Carolina, where jazz keeps the flowers alive, through all the hot spots across the country, to the final showdown at the Pork Pie Club.
Vivian Reed, as The Devil's Wife, keeps the joint jumpin' with her ringing vocals and her well-fitted get-ups. Her singing is countered by great voice work from Bobby Daye, bearing out the mythic claims about the participants. Fine characterizations by Alton Fitzgerald White as The Champion, Kim Staunton as Mahaley, Charlie's long-suffering soul mate, Kimberly JaJuan as Maggie, Volcy's patient betrothed, and Ora Jones, as Mabel, the outspoken neighbor, bring depth to this delightful tale.
Kudos to the crafts people for the excellent lighting, sound, design and costume work. The Denver Center Theatre Company's world premiere of Michael Genet's Pork Pie: A Mythic Jazz Fable runs through June 16th. 303-893-4100.