Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906, Freda Josephine McDonald was just a teenager when the first race riots made people of colour aware of their rights to be treated equally. Working as a housekeeper in white people’s houses, the young girl dreamt of being free and having a job that would make her happy.
Aged 13, she was discovered at a street-corner dance competition by a much older man, who would soon become her first husband. Their union wasn’t meant to last but was a first fundamental step towards financial independence. It wasn’t long before Josephine – who chose her middle name for her stage persona – married William Baker, of whom she kept the surname despite another prompt divorce.
Being given the opportunity to perform in Paris, Josephine didn’t hesitate to leave the heavily segregated United States, with which she kept a controversial relationship until her death. Renouncing her citizenship, she adopted France as her only country, eternally grateful to Paris for allowing her to become the dazzling sensation who broke so many taboos. Developing a unique blend of burlesque, singing and dancing, she was also the first African American to star in a major motion picture in 1927.
Portrayed by the gorgeous Tymisha Harris – who wrote the show together with Michael Marinaccio and Tod Kimbro – Josephine’s liberated attitude shines through. A big dreamer with endless talent, who always made good use of her widespread influence. This also involved her becoming a French Resistance agent during WWII and a civil rights activist next to Martin Luther King at the March on Washington.
Harris opens the proceedings with an English version of “J’ai Deux Amours”, warming up the audience for the show-stopping 70 minutes to follow. This includes the act that saw her rise to stardom, the “Dance Sauvage” performed at the Folies Bergère with only a string of artificial bananas as a skirt.
Harris lives and breathes her character, her elegance, as well as her zesty personality. A good pinch of humour completes this biopic, making it as entertaining as informative. A must see for all the show-biz lovers out there.
Created by: Tymisha Harris, Michael Marinaccio, and Tod Kimbro
Directed by: Michael Marinaccio
Book and Music Direction by: Tod Kimbro
Producer: Dynamite Lunchbox and Hartstone-Kitney Productions
Booking Link: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/josephine-af2020
Booking Until: 1 March 2020