The Weekly Vista
Indigo to the rescue!
Kwame Alexander’s books come to life in musical
Performing as Indigo Blume offers a rare opportunity for singer, performer and educator Kanysha Williams the opportunity to be a kid again. With theatrical credits such as “Sister Act,” “The Color Purple,” “Always … Patsy Cline,” “Aida,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and more, she embraces the opportunity to be a little silly.
With a cast of just six actors, “Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie Starring Indigo Blume” is the musical combination of two books by Kwame Alexander. In this story, Indigo Blume is joined by friends such as Dairy Parton, Duck Ellington and Chickee Minaj as she sets out to clean up her community and find her voice.
“It’s such a beautiful, beautiful show,” Williams says. “Every time I see us I’m like, this looks like it came straight out of a book. Our set designers and our creative team are just absolutely incredible.
“The beautiful thing about doing shows that are made with children in mind is that you get to kind of rewind and slow down and take in how big the world is to them,” Williams explains. “It’s nice to lower the stakes in the grand sense of things, but also get into the eyes and the mindset and the ideas of a child and realize that maybe the biggest part of their day is whether or not they get ice cream — and not to diminish what that means because working hard and being rewarded for it is really important, especially for children.”
While she is playing a child, Williams says that the character is not only relatable, but her energy is catching.
“To be completely honest, I think Indigo is a better person than I am,” Williams says. “I love how passionately she feels things. And I also feel that I’m a person who has really strong, big, big feelings. I also love how positive and how infectious her positivity is. And I think we have that in common too. It’s really easy to kind of ‘slide into her Converse,’ if you will.
“She is so joyful and so bubbly, and her passion for things that she loves literally infects everyone around her,” Williams continued. “You can see that in the books, you can see it in the play, you can hear it in the way that she responds to her friends and her community. So she is the girl who gets it done, but everyone loves and respects her for it.”
Williams also relates to the theme of following your dreams that is prevalent in both this show and other books by Kwame Alexander, whom she wasn’t familiar with until the show was mounted in Washington, D.C., in a commission for the Kennedy Center. After reading several of his books, which include children’s books and young adult novels — many of which were on the New York Times Bestseller list — Williams became a huge fan.
“I’m just happy to be in his little universe,” she enthuses. She points to the ripple effect that Alexander believing in himself has on the lives of so many others, from his readers to the actors in this production and his forthcoming Disney+ series. Because he believed in himself, others are able to follow their dreams, she says.
“That’s what our show is about — believing in yourself and following your dreams and having confidence,” Williams emphasizes. “That’s what inspires me the most.”
For kids, she says the show offers an hour of colorful and musical ways to explore big feelings and learn about music, which will catch the attention of children of all ages, even babies and preschoolers.
“They can kind of follow along with the story, even if they’re not catching all the delicious, wonderful, beautiful nuggets of truth that we’re giving them,” she adds. At the same time, early elementary school kids can find a character to cheer on in Indigo.
“I see them dancing with us. I hear them clapping their hands with us. I hear them literally cheering me on when we see Indigo scared or nervous. They’re participating. They’re like, ‘You can do it! Don’t be afraid!’ I hear them cheering me on, and it makes my heart soar!”