First-Time Playwright Captivates Audience with Musical

Bonnie Williams Radden’s longtime reverie of producing a theatrical production which she wrote and directed at a prestigious venue came to fruition recently against the backdrop of one of Richmond, Va.’s most picturesque skylines.

Well, not exactly the breathtaking skyline one gets crossing the city’s historic Robert E. Lee Bridge, but one that can be imagined sitting in the auditorium within the serene surroundings of the Virginia War Memorial, where Radden, 53, debuted her four-act musical, “Pieces of a Dream.”

“Pieces,” which also showcases a committed cast of first-time actors, similarly brings to life pieces of Radden’s own determination at success, as the musical revolves around the lead character’s dream of performing at an impressive location.

“‘Pieces of a Dream’ is about two friends — a young singer and dancer named Zach, who longs to perform at the esteemed Vanue’ Hall that was once owned by the father of her friend, Dana ‘Danny’ Hall,” Radden said. “The two girls met one day in a park frequented by homeless individuals. The well-to-do Zach likes the connection with her homeless friends, so much so, that when she hangs out with them, she literally becomes one of them — dressing like them, embracing their mannerisms, and causes. Unfortunately, due to the way Zach acts and dresses in her tattered clothing, the management at Vanue’ Hall snubs her, refusing to allow Zach to perform there. So, like her friend Danny, who is also a dreamer, Zach takes to dreaming about performing at Vanue’ Hall.”

Deidre Coley performs in Bonnie Radden's "Pieces of a Dream" musical at the Virginia War Museum auditorium in Richmond, Va. (Dorothy Rowley/The Washington Informer)
Deidre Coley performs in Bonnie Radden’s “Pieces of a Dream” musical at the Virginia War Museum auditorium in Richmond, Va. (Dorothy Rowley/The Washington Informer)

During the hourlong production, for which tickets quickly sold out weeks ahead of the presentation, its captivated crowd of more than 200 people was introduced to the musical and vocal talents of several of Radden’s family members, including the unabashed charm and singing ability of her husband, Dwayne Radden.

The production had a few hiccups — standard fare for a live, first-time production. In addition to a lengthy lapse between two acts, there was a sudden malfunction in the sound system.

As the musical progressed, there were a few instances in which Radden — who wrote the musical in three months — might have poured a tad bit more time into the development of the lead role of Danny, played by Chanel Radden, and Deidre Coley’s Angela Famous character.

While Caitlin Radden provided a wonderfully close-to-authentic rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” her sister Chanel’s eminence as Danny was stymied by the lack of time she spent on stage.

Coley, known for her strong, seasoned vocals, was perfect for the role of flamboyant songstress Angela Famous.

However, during her rendition of Stephanie Mills’ timeless hit, “Home,” Coley fell short of the emotional expression she’s quite capable of delivering. Nevertheless, she deserved a round of applause for the professionalism exhibited when the sound system failed, forcing her to sing part of the song a capella.

Along with two talented dancers played by Danielle Cosby and Chelsi Dance, Dwayne Radden also proved to be a most refreshing and enjoyable addition to the musical.

Between the two aforementioned set lulls, Dwayne was quickly able to deflect any scintilla of dismay the crowd might have had with an improvised expansion of his role as the charmingly feisty Javier Deportes. To his credit, Dwayne effortlessly kept things moving along with a pocketful of spirited antics that showcased a hilarious Caribbean accent. That alone kept the audience roaring with laughter.

While the June 1 presentation served as Radden’s first time out the gate in the world theatrical offerings, her efforts, which kept the audience glued to the stage, provided a plausible assessment of her writing and directing skills.

Given more time to hone her craft, Radden stands to list among the most venerable of RVA’s homegrown talent.

“I think the sky’s the limit for her as a [rising] playwright,” Dwayne, 59, said of his wife. “She’s a deep thinker and she knows how to pull people in. One way or the other, she will fly.”

Radden plans on presenting her work again in the Richmond area this fall, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

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Dorothy Rowley – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I knew I had to become a writer when at age nine I scribbled a note to my younger brother’s teacher saying I thought she was being too hard on him in class. Well, the teacher immediately contacted my mother, and with tears in her eyes, profusely apologized. Of course, my embarrassed mother dealt with me – but that didn’t stop me from pursuing my passion for words and writing. Nowadays, as a “semi-retiree,” I continue to work for the Washington Informer as a staff writer. Aside from that, I keep busy creating quirky videos for YouTube, participating in an actor’s guild and being part of my church’s praise dance team and adult choir. I’m a regular fixture at the gym, and I like to take long road trips that have included fun-filled treks to Miami, Florida and Jackson, Mississippi. I’m poised to take to the road again in early 2017, headed for New Orleans, Louisiana. This proud grandmother of two – who absolutely adores interior decorating – did her undergraduate studies at Virginia Union University and graduate work at Virginia State University.

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