Theater review: Magnificent 'Josephine' showcases Tymisha Harris's talents to a T


Tymisha Harris as Josephine Baker | Photo by Von Hoffman, courtesy of Michael Marinaccio
  • Tymisha Harris as Josephine Baker | Photo by Von Hoffman, courtesy of Michael Marinaccio
In an era when seemingly every white male of marginal historical importance has received his own hit musical, it’s a crime that Josephine Baker – triple-threat performer, civil rights pioneer, sexual iconoclast, and once the richest black woman on the planet – has only a forgotten 25-year-old TV movie in her memory. If there’s any justice, that will all change once the world gets an eye- and earful of Tymisha “Tush” Harris embodying the legendary artist in Tod Kimbro’s magnificent “burlesque cabaret dream-play” Josephine.

Kimbro’s musical play blends period song and dance routines with direct-address monologues and audience interactions, as Harris recounts Baker’s journey from Missouri poverty and exploitation (she was married twice before she turned 16) to Parisian high society and Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. Harris makes the audience feel Baker’s pain and pride at every turn, both through songs – highlighted by a heartbreaking rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and a stirring slowed-down reinterpretation of Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changin’” – and heartfelt soliloquies.

Director Michael Marinaccio showcases Harris’s talents to a T, drawing focus to her physicality through banana skirts, fan dances, and frequent on-stage costume changes, while simultaneously making certain the audience sees her as (in Baker’s words) “more than just another black ass on display.” His lighting design is also lovely, utilizing color changes to signify shifts in time and perspective and creating a striking shadow-play effect during the elegiac finale. Harris work with Varietease and Universal established her as one of Orlando’s best singer/dancers, but under Marinaccio’s direction she gets to demonstrate her considerable acting chops as well, digging deep into the sadness beneath Baker’s sunny showbiz exterior.

Josephine premiered at the San Diego Fringe in a slightly altered form, and I’ve observed marked improvements since a recent workshop performance. The brief debut Orlando run ends Monday and is already almost sold out, but I have a hunch that Harris and Josephine will be back and are bound for bigger things.

Josephine, a Burlesque Cabaret Dream-play by Tod Kimbro
The Venue, 511 Virginia Drive
8 pm Saturday, Nov. 5 (sold out); 9:30 pm Monday, Nov. 7
Tickets are $15, purchase at

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.