About three quarters through the new Broadway musical “Paradise Square,” my lingering doubts about the show vanished. This clarifying moment happened during the show’s 11 o’clock number, “Let It Burn.” Nelly (played by Joaquina Kalukango) was facing a crowd of angry white people threatening to lynch her family and burn down her business. Instead of cowering, she belted the phrase “Let it burn,” a challenge and a command.
As Kalukango sang, her soulful voice gained both altitude and power, as if she were climbing up to the heavens with her bare hands. After hitting her final note, which seemed to come out of her chest in an explosive roar, the audience leapt to their feet in applause.