Tony winning actress Lillias White stars in the York Theatre Company's production of "Texas in Paris." That's a show based on the real life story of two singers from Texas, one white and one black, and their journey to perform in Paris. Contributing critic David Cote of Time Out New York filed this review for NY1.
The York Theatre's “Texas in Paris” bills itself as a musical play, not a musical, even though it features 26 tunes. It is an important distinction: musicals rely on showing off and razzmatazz. This piece is about two shy amateur singers and while its stars are seasoned pros, it celebrates the outsider.
This play with songs, with a book by documentarian Alan Govenar, centers on two fish out of water, with only each other for company. Two real-life Texans – cowboy warbler John Burrus and gospel-singer Osceola Mays – are invited to bring their uniquely American music to Paris for a series of concerts. They are played by the glorious Lillias White and appealing Scott Wakefield, two performers with plenty of Broadway credits. Neither character, however, is a showbiz type, much less a world traveler, so they’re a bit overwhelmed. Actually, Osceola is delighted by the attention and glamour of Paris. She is able to forget about a life of hardship and racism back in the Lone Star State, a life that is inevitably brought back to her by the laconic presence of Burrus, a decent fellow, but withdrawn. The 90-minute show alternates excerpts from their concerts with offstage banter. There are odd couple chuckles as well as moments of tension as they warm to each other. And when they take the stage to sing rousing gospel numbers or bouncy country & western ballads, White and Wakefield harmonize sweetly.
Directed with unfussy directness by Akin Babatundé, “Texas in Paris” is honest stuff, if predictable and also poky: Horton Foote without the art. Personally, I would prefer sharper dialogue and more dramatic heft, but then we might lose that homespun charm.