Reviewed by Margaret Thompson
Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about taking my six- and eight-year-old boys to a play about a rather serious topic, one that would surely explore areas that are unknown to them, one that would spark all sorts of questions that I wasn’t sure I was prepared to answer. And more importantly, one with no singing and dancing whatsoever (EEK!). But I knew it was important, and I knew Virginia Rep would handle it beautifully, so off we went on Super Bowl Sunday to see The Maggie Walker Story at our favorite little theater just for kids.
The five-person cast, a couple of whom the kids recognized from Charlotte’s Web, took the packed house on a journey through Maggie’s life, starting at her infancy, and following her all the way through her challenging, adventurous, and at times heart-breaking life in Richmond, Virginia. The kids thought it was neat that the story took place entirely in their hometown, and they have already asked to visit her house, now a National Historic Landmark, in Jackson Ward. The talented cast, led by Jessi Johnson as Maggie, made what could be a very somber topic entertaining, and dare I say, humorous at times, with special props going out to Jahred King for giving us all more than a few chuckles along the way.
Maggie’s story is an important one, one not to be left out of the discussions of racial segregation and the quest to end it in our country. All too often, kids only hear about the great Martin Luther King, Jr. and are left thinking that there were no other warriors who fought battles to end racial inequality in the U.S. Maggie forged the way many years before Dr. King and overcame many obstacles to make the progress she did for her race. The story, while uplifting for blacks, women, and black women, touches on lessons to be learned that go well beyond those boundaries.
Maggie’s story shows us that one person can make a difference, even when she is told its no use. One person can overcome tragedy, like the death of a parent or sibling or child, or as in this very strong woman’s case, all three. One person can rise above extreme poverty to achieve great things. One person can stand up for what she believes in and affect change. And these are lessons we all need to learn, and lessons that Virginia Rep made enjoyable to hear, even if they weren’t set to music.
The Maggie Walker Story continues through February 15 at the Children’s Theatre at Willow Lawn. Suggested for seven, and up the show is about an hour long.Visit Virginia Rep for tickets and showtimes and a study guide and student matinee schedule.