Once again the stage spectacle Drumline Live! will take over the Arsht Center, giving the city a history lesson on the rhythms, moves and traditions that have been developing over more than half a century at the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The show’s director Don P. Roberts, who served as creative consultant for the film Drumline, says the cast is comprised of a dream team of the best musicians and dancers from across the country, including several South Floridian musicians like Larry Smith on lead saxophone.
Expect the unexpected, says Roberts, himself a former drum major for Florida A & M University who went on to lead some of the nation’s top high school marching bands. He currently is the Music Supervisor for the Decatur County School District in Georgia and he is the man that stars like Missy Elliot and producer Dallas Austin turned to when they needed a marching band.
The show, like the 2002 film, gives a spotlight to the action surrounding the half-time shows at the HBCUs, which can be just as important as the game itself, says Roberts. “We take the marching band show, we take the lights, the costumes and glamorize it and super-size it about one hundred times. Even someone who marched in a marching band will think, “Wow, we didn’t do it like that!’”
Beginning with the origins of the drum in Africa (without which there would be no Drumline Live!), the show goes through the ages, highlighting traditional African American music like gospel, blues, Motown, funk all the way to hip hop and R&B.
But how does one fit a marching band that is meant for a giant football stadium onto a stage? “Wait and see,” Roberts effuses. “We never have had a show where the audience isn’t on its feet in the first five minutes. Drumline Live! is a ‘let’s see it again’ show.”