By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
I recently enjoyed watching (for the second time) Daniel J. Watts’ The Jam: Only Child. Daniel J. Watts wrote, stars in, and brilliantly raps, taps, and gently guides us through his only-child growing up stages. In The Jam: Only Child, Watts’ nod to his great-grandmother’s plentiful jam recipe, he additionally uses the spirited spontaneity of jazz to recount his life as the only child of a single mother, growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. From the fierce growing pains of boyhood innocence to the awkwardness of teenage years to becoming a proud Black man, he digs through his memory’s attic in a powerful and playful story of metamorphosis. The Jam also features DJ Duggz (Memphis the Musical) and is the fifth in Watts’ The Jam series.
Daniel J. Watts doesn’t just narrate a story, he ingeniously uses simple wardrobe props, his own poetry, and his professional background as a dancer to illuminate his fascinating, sometimes charming, but more often difficult journey to manhood. Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., is presenting this streaming mainstage performance direct from the Max Theatre stage filmed by Chiet Productions (Simply Sondheim) with editing by James Gardiner. With sensitive direction by Obie Award Winner Lileana Blain-Cruz (New York’s Signature Theatre’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World), handsome and very effective lighting design by Adam Honoré (Signature’s Simply Sondheim), and ingenious sound by DJ Duggz and Sound Design (the only other man on the set), the audience gets drawn into Watts’ world instantly!
Bursting with lyricism, dynamic tap dance, and heart, this delectable treat called The Jam is a little bit savory, a little bit sweet, occasionally sticky, but it’s all good. I promise you won’t soon forget it. Hence, my watching it a second time. As a friend said this week, “I thoroughly enjoyed The Jam: Only Child! It was thought provoking and entertaining.” Boom!
Daniel J. Watts’ The Jam: Only Child streams now through May 7 on Marquee TV. $35 Tickets are on sale now at SigTheatre.org or by calling the Box Office 703-820-9771.