The Root Doctor, Black Ensemble Theater.

This is a strange piece of theater: is it a musical play about a “root doctor,” an advertisement for herbal healing, or just a plain old R & B revue performed by a terrific band?

The Root Doctor, written by Jackie Taylor and Roy Hytower, begins strongly: Hytower enters as a guitar-playing “seventh son of a seventh son,” Daddy Jack. This archetypal rogue sings a few songs about being a root doctor and tells us a thing or two about his past and the healing arts he learned from his father. But then, just when you think the story is about to take off, Hytower turns the topic to root doctoring–and before you can say “medicine show,” the evening turns into a hard sell for herbal medicines, which are for sale in the lobby at intermission.

In the second act the medicine show is abandoned in favor of a flat-out musical revue. Which is for the best, actually, since Hytower’s songs really rock. And his band plays so well you wish the actors would get off the stage so the audience could get up and dance.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin – Jennifer Girard Studio.