The life and work of Nina Simone is intertwined with the American civil rights movement. More than just a musical biography, Black is the Color of My Voice puts her work in context to make the audience feel the passion and the pain Simone felt as she wrote her songs. Written and performed by Apphia Campbell, the one-person musical is not only a celebration of Simone’s work but also details the environment in which Simone became the figure so dearly remembered today. Black is the Color of My Voice is a loving and honest tribute to Nina Simone that speaks truth to her power.
No one truly compares to Nina Simone, but Campbell probably comes closest. She manages to capture the innocence of a young Simone experiencing racism for the first time, of an uncertain pianist about to begin their career, the pain of psychological and physical abuse, the strength of being part of a movement. More impressive still, Campbell manages the soul necessary to sing Simone’s songs with authority. She effortlessly captures and conveys Simone’s emotions, every heartbeat of pride, and every tear of pain.
The show climaxes around the midway point, as Nina Simone’s life and work begin to intertwine with the civil rights movement. Especially profound for a British audience who may not be as familiar with the tragedies of the era, Campbell cries out for the schoolgirls in Birmingham and she falters on hearing about the deaths of Evers and King, bringing a tragic past for us to reckon with in the present day. The strength of this latter half, unfortunately, makes the first half pale. While necessary for understanding Simone’s growth and her later choices in life, it was not written with the same prose and power that the latter part of the show becomes imbued with.
Campbell has managed to produce a work that is at once compelling and honest. It does not censor itself of tragedy, heartbreak, and pain, and Black is the Color of My Voice stands high as a poignant work because of it. The show brings the audience on an emotional trip through innocent childhood years, through happy moments, sad ones, and tragic ones. A powerhouse of a performance and a remarkable story of Simone’s life, Apphia Campbell’s Black is the Color of My Voice will leave audiences feeling good.
26 August @ 16:00 (1 hour)
You can buy tickets here.
Photo Credit: Gilded Balloon Press Office