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Creative Team For ‘Shout Sister Shout!’ Is Announced

Photo courtesy “Shout Sister Shout!”

“Shout Sister Shout!,” the story of music pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, celebrates Women’s History Month by announcing its creative team.

Playwright Cheryl L. West (“Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer”; “Jar the Floor”), will be joined by Kenneth L. Roberson (“Avenue Q”; “All Shook Up”), who will direct, and Joseph Joubert (“Respect”; “The Color Purple”) as arranger and orchestrator for the musical about the “Godmother of Rock ’n’ Roll.”

A virtuosic guitar player, songwriter and performer, Tharpe was a musical superstar from the 1930s through the 1960s — a Black woman, who influenced early rock stars, including Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Producer Ragovoy Entertainment Group (Dawn Smalberg and Bev Ragovoy) plans to further develop the show with a regional theater in preparation for a Broadway run. “Shout” premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2017 and after a major restructuring, went on to rave reviews at Seattle Rep in November 2019.

“Armed with Sister Rosetta’s inspiring story, West’s engaging book and a talented creative team, ‘Shout Sister Shout!’ is guaranteed to bring audiences back to the theater for a joyful evening of music that celebrates an extraordinary woman whose scope of influence continues to this day,” said Ragovoy.

The show, inspired by Gayle F. Wald’s 2007 biography “Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe,” tells the story of gospel music’s first star, who sold out arenas in the 1950s, redefining the national and international music scene. She helped to discover Richard Wayne Penniman, later known as Little Richard. A larger-than-life personality, her music changed gospel and rhythm and blues forever, while impacting those who went on to form the pantheon of rock ’n’ roll. In 2004, the U.S. Library of Congress selected Tharpe’s 1944 release “Down by the Riverside” for the National Recording Registry, noting that it “captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers.”

Tharpe, whose contribution to music was obscured for years after her death in 1973, was finally recognized with her posthumous induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

In 2019, pop superstar Lizzo and her guitarist Celisse Henderson paid tribute to Tharpe with a musical performance on Saturday Night Live. “This is a Black art form, and it started with a Black woman,” Henderson later said of Tharpe in an interview with Yahoo! Music. “… Rock ’n’ roll really is a Black woman.”

Featuring some of Tharpe’s greatest hits, like “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” “Didn’t It Rain and “Up Above My Head.” The musical will be West’s sophomore production on Broadway; her show “Play On!” premiered at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 1997 and a revival of her show, “Jar The Floor” is currently optioned for a Broadway run.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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