One of the city's most charismatic and controversial politicians, Joe Morrissey, stepped out on a different stage Sunday.
In a one-night-only performance at the Henrico Theatre, the former legislator and candidate for mayor played the supporting role of Michael in "I'll Always Love My Mama," a new show.
Morrissey's presence was made known to the audience even before the curtain rose. The evening's emcee, Coley Cole, mentioned that a local attorney would be making his stage debut.
"Richmond loves you, Joe Morrissey," Cole said, prompting applause. "If we don't support our own, who else will?"
Written, directed and staged by Raw Talk Entertainment, the play shows the pressures of a family on its matriarch, played by local jazz vocalist and Richmond Department of Public Works spokeswoman Sharon Rae North. Its alternately mawkish and hilarious scenes offered themes of family, Jesus, addiction and redemption, familiar to fans of Tyler Perry.
To say the show was good in a conventional sense would be inaccurate. But it was highly entertaining. Wedged between the hokey plot, histrionic acting and instances of microphone feedback were moments of greatness, especially with the comedic work of Crystal Richards Jackson and Micah "Bam-Bamm" White as Tanya and the perpetually drunk Uncle Rob.
The latter delivered great lines, including an improvised one after a young actor caused a moment of audio feedback. White's off-the cuff quip: "Whoo, Jesus, you got the devil in you."
But what about Richmond's Fightin' Joe? He wasn't half bad. During his short time on stage, he knew his lines and successfully projected his character's motivation, even if he was a little stiff. Perhaps his time as commonwealth's attorney, lawmaker and lawyer have provided the perfect training for a career change.
At least one moment is played up when the family accuses Morrissey's character of having an affair with his secretary. Morrissey's character swears he'd never do it. White, in an aside to the audience, says, "That ain't what I heard."
Perhaps what drew the most applause was seeing Morrissey bust a few moves at the show's close, when the cast danced to the Intruders' 1973 soul hit "I'll Always Love My Mama" — on Mother's Day weekend. Morrissey's a better actor than a dancer, but the crowd ate it up.