The majesty of her voice could accomplish in one song what a preacher
couldn’t do in a two-hour sermon. She was Mahalia
Jackson and her legacy is brought to life in Tom Stolz’s
Mahalia! A Gospel Musical, a
no-souls barred tribute to the legendary singer, now playing at MetroStage.
Born the granddaughter of slaves in
In Stolz’s musical biography, the focus is on
Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin has built a solid reputation for MetroStage as the place to see superb musical biopics — Alberta Hunter (Cookin’ at the Cookery), Sammy Davis Jr. (Cool Papa’s Party) and Pearl Bailey (Pearl Bailey … By Request) to name a few. But Mahalia!, which garnered awards when it first premiered here in 2004, soars to new heights and raises the roof of the converted lumber warehouse.
The original cast of three — Bernadine Mitchell, S. Renee Clark and William Hubbard — all brilliantly reprise their roles. Mitchell takes on the role of the incomparable
Clark is commanding as
An award-winning musical director and conductor, Clark fiercely tackles the challenging and syncopated keyboard rhythms of
Hubbard, nominated for a Helen Hayes Award as Outstanding Supporting Actor for his role in the original production, is back and more engaging than ever. He smoothly transitions between several characters but is most commanding in his stirring portrayal of King, his voice resonating throughout the theatre with the strains of “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
But it is the vibrant power of Mitchell’s performance, which earned the coveted Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in 2004, that leaves the audience mesmerized. Emulating
Her voice remains rich and forceful as she completely inhabits the role of
An artist without peer, Jackson liked to say that gospel music was good news in bad times and under the direction of 12-time Helen Hayes Award-winner Thomas W. Jones II, the intersection of race, religion and music elevates Mahalia! beyond mere entertainment.
“There is a great history being told here,” said Hopkins House president Glen Hopkins after seeing the show. “It reintroduces something wonderful to a new generation. People need to see this.”
Mahalia! is not just the story of
“Live theatre is one of the greatest gifts we can give to a community,”