*The exquisite Kirk Douglas Theatre in downtown Culver City, California was the host site for the world premiere of The Royale by Marco Ramirez starring David St. Louis as boxing champ Jay “The Sport” Jackson, under the direction of Daniel Aukin.  The spectacular lighting of Lap Chi Chu, the set design of Andrew Boyce and the rhythmic guidance of Ameenah Kaplan immediately transports the audience into the boxing arena and into the ring of the star character who is reminiscent of Jack Johnson, the first African American who won the world heavyweight boxing championship in 1908.  The show is indeed a technical knock out!

David St. Louis glistens with intensity as he shadow boxes the Brown Bomber (Jack Johnson’s nickname) and all that he contemplated inside and outside of the ring.  The Royale unveils the story with voice, and movement and sound.  We hear the thrill of victory as well as the constant threat of death through the voice of Jay’s boxing manger Max, played by Keith Szarabajka whose energetic narrative exudes the frustration, the excitement and the determination of the team that supports Jay Johnson.  Robert Gossett plays Wynton (Jay’s trainer) and the delightful Diarra Oni Kilpatrick plays Nina, Jay’s sister.  Together they emit reason and pure passion with dignity and style. The ensemble  is rounded out by Desean Terry, who anchors the fine and eloquent cast. 

The Royale is a spirited dramatic production revealed by a medley of choreographed moves, sharp clapping and brisk stomping that punctuate the story of Jay Jackson.  Ryan Rumery’s music and sound design helped to move the story along but the show’s conservative use of audio segues and visual effects, leaves one to only imagine the heinous racial climate of the early 1900’s.  Still the real life Jack Johnson prevailed, and so does Jay Jackson in The Royale.  For actor David St. Louis, it is a star making moment who described his character’s experience as this: “Whether you win or lose, there is always a price.”

The Royale is presented as part of The Center Theatre Group’s African American Experience, which includes the plays Fela, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and The Scottsboro Boys.  The Royale is showing now through June 2nd 2013. 

Theater fans, educators, and community groups are invited to experience and support these stellar productions that celebrate our rich cultural heritage and artistic expression. Theater goers are also in for a surprise with the unique lobby experience that has been designed for immediate audience participation as it sets the stage for the intrigue that awaits just moments away.

Tickets for “The Royale” are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre or two hours prior to performances at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office.

The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. http://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/The-Royale/