“Flow’ raps about young reality

Will Power takes the Children’s Theatre Company to a beautiful day in his neighborhood

by Tatum Fjerstad

Remember hopping on the yellow bus for another boring field trip and sitting with your “best friends” on a smelly old seat adorned with duct tape? Remember that ride being, by far, the best part of the day?

If only the bus driver had dropped us off in Will Power’s neighborhood instead of at the museum. Because there, on the corner with Power, we wouldn’t have learned about oil paintings. We would have learned about life.

Writer, composer and performer, Power fuses life lessons with spoken word, dance and rap in his award-winning show “Flow.” Of course, he gets a little help from turntablist DJ Reborn. But Power is the star.

Like Mr. Rogers ” but with pop culture prowess ” Power charms his audience and invites them into his world.

With Reborn on the turntables and Power everywhere else, the two tell a series of stories about seven characters in an hour and a half.

Power embodies these seven starkly different and rather stereotypical storytellers who meet around a circle of sand and cardboard boxes in “the neighborhood.”

In each role, Power spans music genre and gender. The old guy wants to be hip, the schoolteacher’s a feminist, the grocery-bagger can’t stop preaching, the American Indian is wise, the healthy dance teacher knows it all, the young girl is obsessed with free-styling and, finally, Power is himself.

Their stories start out light and nonsensical. “Fred the Roach” is more of a nursery rhyme than a story. But soon they delve into deeper issues, such as racism and alcohol. Power strikes chords as his characters sell crack to their mothers, get shot at and play childish tricks that end in death. But just when the audience’s veins are chilled, he warms their hearts with a moral in the bigger picture.

Throughout the entertainment, Power uses his nearly trademarked phrase, “beedee-ka-ka” in every situation, emotion and response. His beats, blues, gospel, hip-hop and rap read with all ages. In each style, Power’s voice stays crisp and easy to understand. “When you hear that beedee-ka-ka/ And you feel trapped, trapped/ use the music/ and just flow,” he says.

The stories themselves also span generations. There is a childlike element in the hilarity of the characters themselves, a teenage element with the pressure of fitting in and an adult element in the music, morals and deep world issues that goes over younger viewers’ heads.

“Flow” promotes itself as having “the visual and sonic arsenal of MTV.” The entire show is a series of tangents. As soon as a story starts, it’s over, and the next one begins ” perfect for the next generation of Ritalin poppers.

If the up-and-coming generation is able to stomach only this kind of theater, the art might be in trouble. Playing with styles and forms will keep theater changing and breathing. But the art should focus, too, on those who already appreciate it for what it already is.

At times, during his storytelling, as Power beat-boxes out minor details, setting the audience up for the next story, he looks overly rehearsed. What could be a subtle success is a blatant bellow.

Sometimes, however, what DJ Reborn pumps out controls Power to the point that even he looks surprised at the musical changes. In these moments ” when Power lets go and acts in the moment ” it becomes a one-man dance party.

In those moments, he emits sincerity. And his push on the importance of storytelling feels real. The audience adores him and falls in love. And perhaps, if they hear his story’s core message, they will do what it takes to keep storytelling alive.