Last night, I celebrated my birthday with André De Shields and Garth Kravits at Atlantic Theater Company’s world premiere production of George Brant’s play with music, Marie and Rosetta, at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater. Helmed by Artistic Director Neil Pepe, Marie and Rosetta stars Kecia Lewis as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Marie Knight. Also in the house- Anthony Chisholm, Carla Brothers and Virginia Woodruff.
A huge influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Lewis) was a legend in her time, bringing fierce guitar-playing and swing to gospel music. Tharpe was the queen of ‘race records’ in the 30’s and 40’s, a woman who played guitar as passionately as Clapton, who performed mornings at churches and evenings at the Cotton Club, who was a big enough star to fill a baseball stadium for her third wedding, but ended up buried in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia. Marie and Rosetta chronicles Sister Rosetta’s first rehearsal with a young protégée, Marie Knight (Jones), as they prepare to embark on a tour that would establish them as one of the great duet teams in musical history.
Marie and Rosetta, which recently received a 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, began previews on August 24, officially opened September 14 and has been extended through October 16 at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater. Tickets can be ordered online at www.atlantictheater.org, by calling OvationTix at 866-811-4111, or in person at The Linda Gross Theater box office (336 West 20th Street between 8 and 9 Avenues).
Kecia Lewis recently starred in the title role of Mother Courage Off-Broadway. She made her Broadway debut as “Effie” in the original company of Dreamgirls, originated the role of “Asaka, Mother of The Earth” in Once on This Island and has appeared in the Broadway musicals Big River, Ain’t Misbehavin, The Gospel at Colonus, The Drowsy Chaperone, Chicago and earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for her performance in Dessa Rose at Lincoln Center Theatre.
Rebecca Naomi Jones has performed in the Broadway musicals American Idiot, Passing Strange, and most recently as Yitzhak in the hit revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. She has appeared Off-Broadway in Murder Ballad, Big Love and The Fortress of Solitude and recently starred in Martyna Majok’s play Cost of Living at Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was widely acclaimed among the greatest Sanctified gospel singers of her generation; a flamboyant performer whose music often flirted with the blues and swing, she was also one of the most controversial talents of her day, shocking purists with her leap into the secular market – by playing nightclubs and theaters, she not only pushed spiritual music into the mainstream, but in the process also helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel.
Marie and Rosetta features scenic design by Riccardo Hernández, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind, sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy, music direction by Jason Michael Webb and casting by Telsey + Company.
Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm.
Wednesday matinee at 2pm on October 5, October 12.
Garth Kravits (The Drowsy Chaperone) was recently featured as Goldberg in B-Side Productions’ The Wild Party by George Wolfe and Michael John LaChuisa. André De Shields (Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz, The Full Monty, Play On!) is set for August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, directed by Timothy Douglas at Yale Repertory Theatre, Nov. 25 – Dec. 17. Anthony Chisholm (Two Trains Running, Gem of the Ocean, Radio Golf) returns to Broadway in the Ruben Santiago-Hudson helmed production of August Wilson’s Jitney at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with previews begin December 28 and opening night set for January 19, 2017. The play is the only work from Wilson’s The American Century Cycle never seen on Broadway. Set in the early 1970’s, the story follows a group of men who drive unlicensed cabs or jitneys.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.