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“Mahalia” takes audience members to church

The Ensemble Theater, a performing arts theater highlighting the works and arts of African Americans, is currently showing the play, Mahalia, under the direction of Shirley Marks Whitmore and musical direction of Melanie C. Bivens. It is included in the theater’s collection of plays celebrating their 40th year in business.

This musical is appropriate for all crowds and was sure to impact every audience member in some form. The play takes place in New Orleans and Chicago from 1928-1960 and details all of the events of the gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson’s life.

The five cast members put on a phenomenal play and embodied all aspects of Mahalia Jackson’s life and portrayed the upbringing of gospel music and culture in church’s and in America.

The play started with Mahalia’s life in New Orleans and every detail from the costumes, props, lighting, and music were taken into account to transport the audience members through Mahalia’s life. It showed her triumphs, victories, and private relationship with GOD. The audience grew alongside Mahalia and rooted for her as she embarked upon her many journeys as well as laughed along with her when she encountered her new piano player, Mildred, and her organ player, blind Francis.

The musical scenes by Mahalia as well as the entire Ensemble were powerful and brought shoe tapping, clapping hands, snapping fingers, and standing ovations by the audience. Some of the most memorable scenes were when Mahalia performed at Carnegie Hall and sang, “Soon I will be Done with the Troubles of this World” and “Take my Hand, Precious Lord”.

The talented performances by Asia Craft who played Mahalia, Crystal Rae who played Mildred, Andre’ Neal who played blind Francis, as well as the other cast members who were a part of the ensemble, Larry D. Cooper Jr. and Dorothy A. Lastice, took control of the stage and used their gifts to put on an unforgettable show for all. They brought out tears, laughter, grief, and a couple of amen’s and hallelujahs.

Mahalia is a MUST see during this Black History month. The play included so much more than just the life of Mahalia Jackson but it also included key figures in the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. It served as a learning experience for everyone.

The play’s last day at the Ensemble is on February 26th so make sure to stop by before then. Tickets can be bought online here.

Make sure to follow our twitter to see backstage access with the musical director and interviews from audience members!! @insight_chron

Here is some coverage of the event!!


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