Class [1983]

Those who discovered Tyler Perry through leftfield box office hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman may be surprised by Madea's Class Reunion. Sure, there are similarities, but this Perry production is a filmed musical rather than a feature film. The storyline concerns several African-American characters of different ages, all staying at the same hotel while dealing with a variety of problems, like infidelity, domestic abuse, and lack of faith. Writer/director Perry plays two of them--shiftless bellhop/bartender Willy and gun-toting granny Mabel "Madea" Simmons, who is also featured in Diary. Interestingly, Madea, his best-known creation, doesn't actually hit the scene until act two (almost 40 minutes into the play). Also, Perry doesn't sing, but a number of strong vocalists, including Perry regular David Mann (Brown), tackle the gospel-style musical numbers with gusto. Madea's Class Reunion was taped live at Detroit's Fox Theater on September 13th, 2003 (Perry's 34th birthday). --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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