As the last notes of La Vie en Rose hang in the air, we jump to our feet to give our enthralling leading lady the standing ovation she so richly deserves. You’ve heard of a triple threat? Add another dozen skills and you have Tymisha Harris. The star and co-creator of Josephine can do every 1920s dance style you’ve ever heard of (and a few you haven’t). Her spoken word is engaging, comedic timing effortless and singing divine. Most of all, she exudes warmth and charm in every movement and expression. She has a story to tell and we are her spellbound audience.
From ballgown to banana belt, Tymisha Harris is a tour de force.
Josephine is a one-woman cabaret/musical centered on the true story of Josephine Baker, an African-American showgirl who thrived in 1920s Paris after struggling in a segregated America. Never heard of her? Well, a lot of people couldn’t pick Alexander Hamilton out of a line-up until a few years ago, and it only takes an hour for us to learn everything we need to know about this iconic Jazz Age entertainer.
One moment we are trusted friends, listening to Josephine’s stories as she changes behind a screen in her dressing room. The next, we are sitting in a crowded Parisian opera house, breathlessly watching her live performance. At all times, Harris has us in the palm of her hand. When she first swaps her elegant dress for a provocative burlesque ensemble, Josephine is not at the mercy of our gaze. Instead, it is her mercy we must rely on as she emboldens us to appreciate the female form in all its glory. Fans of Funny Girl might appreciate the similarities of a young starlet using comedy to feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar role (beautiful goddess for Fanny, exotic seductress for Josephine).
If Harris has one co-star, it is the wardrobe department. Josephine has more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert, each outfit more spectacular than the last. You would be forgiven for missing a few lines of dialogue while taking in the white, gem-encrusted, flapper two-piece—especially once Josephine starts working that feather boa.
Key moments include; her first evocative dance, her speech and performance at the March on Washington, and a fan dance that will make you want to take up the craft. Along the way, she playfully uses people in the audience as stand ins for her various lovers—take from that what you will, just be sure you know how to tie a brassiere before claiming a coveted front row seat.
From ballgown to banana belt, Tymisha Harris is a tour de force. “I can be good to you for one night,” Josephine claims. “Can’t promise much more than that.” But at the Edinburgh Fringe, one night is all it takes to fall in love.