| By Myra Bean
In the days of slavery, mothers and fathers had no control when the slavemaster wanted one of their daughters for his own.
"Fancy deals with the uncontrollable circumstances that our forefathers went through," said producer, director, playwright and song writer, Pervis Parker. "They couldn’t control but they held so strong to their faith in God."
That plight is the topic of Batesville’s Pervis Parker new musical, "Fancy: God’s Grace Is What We Claim."
The play will take the stage for the first time Saturday, February 24, in honor of Black History month. Batesville Jr. High School auditorium is the setting beginning at 7 p.m.
"It’s kind of different from what we’ve done or what I have seen here," Parker said. "It’s such a cool concept. It’s so different than what I’ve done because I actually had to write the songs to it."
Parker wrote seven songs along with the script. Kianna Leland, choreographed the musical and did the musical arrangement for the songs. Her brother, Pianist/composer Tejuan Leland put the words and arrangements to music.
Kianna Leland will also star as Fancy.
Parker went back to New York this past Christmas and saw "The Color Purple" on Broadway and said that is where he got the idea.
"I came back home and started writing," Parker said. "God started working. We got "Fancy." I told the guys this is what I want to do for black history."
This is a musical, Parker explained, which is different from his other play, "Unity: A Family That Prays Together Stays Together."
"What we have seen in Batesville is a play that has music in it," Parker said. "The closest thing to a musical was American Pop."
Without getting "too risque" the play develops as Poppa Joe, played by Parker, is asked to honor a promise to the young slavemaster Thomas, Justin Rogers, that he have Fancy when she turns 18.
It is one day before a now engaged Fancy’s birthday and Thomas, now married, asks for Fancy.
Thomas waited this long because at one time Poppa Joe saved Thomas’ father’s life.
Fancy’s family is devising a way to get her out and that will be spelled out in the play, according to Parker.
The play starts out with slaves working in the field, chopping and singing.
"The master’s voice is heard telling them to get back to working and stop singing," Parker said. "It actually goes off into singing what they are feeling."
There is a lot more music in it than usual, according to Parker.
"Basically, here what you are thinking is sung," he said. "It’s toe-tapping, hand-clapping music. The choreography is good. It’s going to be different."
Parker said he cannot sing a "lick," but he was able to get the sound he heard in his head over to The Lelands to arrange.
"Kianna and the rest are so talented," Parker said. "I was like, ?This is the way it sounds in my head,’ but it may not come out right. So she and her brother did the rest.
"It works," Parker continued. "We use the people from Coleman Chapel to sing some backups."
The cast of Fancy includes:
Fancy: Kianna Leland (choreographer /arranger)
Jebadiah: Justin Bobo
Poppa Joe: Pervis Parker
(producer, director, playwright, song writer, set designer)
Rabbit: Anderson Boothe
Hattie Mae: Jessica Cannon
Betty Jean: Whitney Pegues
Martha: Breonna Barnes
Master Thomas: Justin Rogers
Tobby: Marlin Nash
Lousie: LaTasha Flowers
Resse: Denise Green
Mary: Monica Towns
Henz: Shaun Morning
Bubba: James Parker
Painist: Tejuan Leland
Drummer: Deitrich Listenbee
Tickets are $12 at the door.