Review: Tyler Perry’s MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY in Seattle

Tyler Perry’s new play, Madea’s Big Happy Family, is a loving tribute to his mother Willie Maxine Perry, who passed away on December 8, 2009:

A few months ago, I said I was taking off the rest of 2009.  The reason for that, although I didn’t say it at the time, was so I could spend my mother’s final days at her side. . .As you know, my mother was the apple of my eye, so this has been difficult to say the least. . .It is still very raw. . .

You have no idea how much I need to go to work right now. . .

You can’t imagine how much I need to be in front of the people right now.  To get that give-and-take. . .Can you believe it’s been 5 years since I’ve toured?. . .I need to laugh and make you laugh even harder. . .

I’ve done some things in this show that have never been seen in a play before.  The show is hilarious!. . .The music is off the chain.


When a guardian angel gave me a ticket to Madea’s Big Happy Family for Christmas, I had no idea how much I would soon need Tyler Perry’s inspiration to get through a very close call with homelessness.  Last week was one of the most rugged of my life, but I kept reminding myself that he had gone from living in his car to living in a mansion outside Atlanta.

Don’t Be Late:  Madea Will Take You Down!

Tyler Perry fans know how Madea loves to scold the children in her family.  The show starts on time.  If you show up late, Madea will take you down!  And, Tyler Perry will call you out ~ by name ~ after the show if your behavior during the show is disruptive!  

Tyler Perry Delivers 

The music is most definitely “off the chain,” and the play is hilarious.  Tyler Perry clearly had a great time engaging with the audience.  At times, he stopped the play ~ which was still a bit at the dress rehearsal stage (Seattle was the fourth stop on his tour) ~ to play director.  His comments were hysterical and provided an intimate glimpse at his discipline delivered with grace and humor.  Because the audience loved it, I suspect this will remain a part of the show on the road.

Some of the cast members like Chandra Currelley (Shirley) have been with Mr. Perry forever.  He recently discovered a couple of the male singers on YouTube.  Throughout the three-hour musical-comedy play, they rock the house and the props on the set.  The musical numbers spoke to my soul.

Pot-smoking Auntie BAM is a laugh riot soul sista to Madea.  The two are like mother hens with their chicks.  Shirley, the family matriarch, plays the role of Mr. Perry’s beloved mother.  In the opening scene, she learns her cancer is back.  It’s terminal.

The scene is made lighter by Auntie BAM’s outrageous flirting with Shirley’s hunky oncologist.  When the doctor takes a shine to Shirley’s mousy, old-maid, Bible-thumping daugher Joyce, Auntie BAM says:

Doctor, I know you came for Joyce, but I can make you re-joice.

Madea, who is ticked with Shirley’s son-in-law’s repairs to her car, takes him down with:

Tell the undertaker to bury you on your stomach because you’re so lazy your ass needs a break.

I don’t recall who delivered this line about Joyce, but it was the first of many that had me laughing out loud:

That’s what they do when they can’t get a him. . .they sing them hymns.

Shirley’s Passing Gave Me Chills

Although I knew the play was a tribute to Mrs. Perry, I was not prepared for the chills I felt when Shirley passed or the tears in my eyes as she was transformed into an angel.  It is pure love of a son for his mother.

The second act ~ after a 15 minute intermission ~ is a family gathering after Shirley’s funeral.  All the family’s dysfunctions are brought to the surface as Shirley’s offspring are taken to school in classic Madea style:

A grown man takes care of his responsibilities.

Stop using that child as a pawn.

The dead years are between 40-50 [Tyler Perry recently turned 40].

People talk about other people because they don’t want to look at their own stuff.

When you love yourself, you will be honest with yourself.

I didn’t get this old being stupid.

After the Show

Tyler Perry came out to introduce the cast and to chat with the audience.  He shared that Janet Jackson, who is in his new movie Why Did I Get Married Too, taught him that work helps relieve grief.  He showed the trailer for the movie which will be released in April.

Then, he went on a rant on Spike Lee’s recent criticism of his work.

After the show, one of the audience members said to me, “it would be nice if Spike Lee would support a brother.”

I agree, but probably not for the reason she might expect.  Tyler Perry has done more than anyone to break down the walls of silence on child abuse and domestic violence.  He’s not only liberating Black people.  He’s liberating white women like me ~ a highly educated woman with a very long WASP pedigree ~ a woman everyone believed lived an idyllic life with every advantage behind those closed doors.

I’ve noticed that the leaders of the anti-violence movement tend to be Black and Jewish.  This doesn’t surprise me.  These two groups have written the book on surviving and thriving despite unbelievable oppression and abuse.  They have taught me a great deal about grace under pressure and how truth does indeed set us free.

The family dysfunctions in Tyler Perry’s work don’t just take place in ghetto families.  The story of Precious, for example, gets played out in every socio-economic level.  Spike Lee doesn’t realize that the same masters who abused their slaves abused the women and children in their homes.  And, the Nazis who engaged in such horror during the Holocaust didn’t become loving fathers when they came home.

I hope that one day soon Spike Lee realizes that Tyler Perry is a courageous leader who is liberating everyone from abuse at home.  He is empowering us all with his message.  And, he is teaching us all that humor is healing.

In the process, he is bridging the racial divide.  I think even Tyler Perry was surprised by how many white people were in the audience in Seattle.

Bravo, Tyler Perry!  Bravo!

Update:  Tyler Perry was on Oprah’s show on April 2, 2010.  You can take a backstage tour of the show by clicking here.  Here’s a link to the YouTube wonders after Oprah’s show.  This is Tyler Perry’s Madea underwear:

Finally, here’s a link to Madea/Tyler Perry telling folks who were late to his show in Chicago to “set the hell down!”  It’s hysterical.

On April 22, 2010, the movie version of Madea’s Big Happy Family will be released.

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7 responses to “Review: Tyler Perry’s MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY in Seattle

  1. What a wonderful commentary on Tyler Perry’s show. Thank you for so eloquently creating a “picture” for those of us who have not yet seen the production. Because of your illustrative writing, I am sure to see it when it comes to Raleigh next month. PS I am one of your biggest fans Coach Drake. Love you much…Rita Anita

  2. Loved your review, as I read I re-lived last night all over again. I saw the first show he did in New York. It was awesome, as this was the first time I see a live show and actually a Tyler Perry show. I love his movies and TV shows. I love the program book I bought I have read it a couple a times and a couple of times more as it was done so beautiful. I see throughout his words and sentiments are for his Mother. Mr. Perry is as humble as they come. He is truly blessed.

    I have told my friends the money spent on my ticket was worth every penny and more. Laughed, cried, even sang to the old school songs.

    Thank you for supporting such a Talented Person as Tyler Perry.

  3. Thanks for visiting, America, and leaving a comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the show. Thank you for refreshing my own joy at seeing one of my heros live and on stage.


  4. Hi there, I am in the process of researching for a post that I’m writing for my own website. I have found this article extremely useful and I would like to enquire if I may link to this post as it will be of some interest to my readers? Thanks for your time. Melissa Suffield

  5. Go for it! Good luck with your school project.

    BTW, your comment got caught in my SPAM filter.

    You might want to click on the links on my blogroll for Kathy Gill or Google her. She teaches new media at the University of Washington here in Seattle. . .she’s literally writing the book on what you are doing.

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