The musical uses a score of familiar gospel songs and spirituals to accentuate the real-life events leading up to Mahalia’s fame and fortune and lifetime successes. She travels in the U.S. from state to state bringing gospel to believers and nonbelievers alike, and she uses her talents not only to entertain but also to help fuel the Christ-centered arm of the civil rights movement with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mahalia’s success continued long after the civil rights fight, transforming her into the international sensation she is known as today.
Some might argue that the musical’s emphasis on gospel music makes an audience’s reaction more influenced by lyrical persuasion than by the essence of the musical performers’ ability to rouse a crowd. One need only hear the vocal mastery of leading actress Bernardine Mitchell to dispel that myth. She sings with an infectious passion that stirs the senses. And as always William F. Hubbard bring on the talent to match. His versatility really shows through in this production as he takes on the roles of four starkly different characters. Alongside Mitchell and Hubbard is S. Renee Clark on the piano and in all the supporting female roles. Not surprisingly, this award-winning cast has more than a handful of awards and honors among them all.
Of the performance, my companion remarked that “the only difference between
Mahalia shows MetroStage Theater in Alexandria, VA, now through March 14, 2010.
Photo credit: Chris Mueller