Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Video of a reading of Motherless Soul.

Listen to Steve's discussion of Motherless Soul on The Authors Show:
Part One
Part Two

My wife and I go to almost every production at Triad Stage in Greensboro. It's a small theater with a wonderful, intimate mood. Most of the time the audience is on three sides of the stage, although one of those sides has more than twice the seats of the other two together. For one production they had some seats on the far side. Technically it was theater in the round for that show, but the majority of the audience was still on a single side.

The sets are always fantastic. It's worth the ticket price just to see the stage design. The latest show, Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow, is no exception. They had rear projection going through a sheer curtain and, as always, they were careful about the tinyest details, from the sparrows hanging above the set to the blinking lightning during Stormy Weather.

On this night, however, this production had a problem. Cassandra Lowe Williams, the actress who played Ethel Waters in this one woman show, was phoning in the songs. There were a couple of numbers, including Stormy Weather that she carried off, but for the majority she almost spoke the lyrics rather than singing them. This Joint Is Jumpin' was one of her numbers and that great song certainly deserves to be done with some spirit. The odd thing about this actress was that she was terrific with the dramatic side of the show. I had to wonder if there was a reason her singing was weak. Perhaps she didn't feel well that night or maybe she was pacing herself.

I still would recommend this show. The pianist was great and, as always, the set was gorgeous. It was also fun to learn about Ethel Waters. She's an important part of our culture and this play is her story.

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