Opening tomorrow night, May 20th, for four performances only at the Fremont Centre Theatre is a musical delight — Sweet Mama String Bean: A Celebration of Blues Woman Ethel Waters. Familiar and passionate songs of the jazz age highlight this musical and dramatic story of Ethel Waters’ rise to fame, as she became one of the greatest artists of her generation.
Star of radio, TV, Broadway and feature film, blues woman Ethel Waters was the Halle Berry or the Beyonce of her day; a ‘superstar’ during the depression-era. As a Broadway legend and an Academy Award nominee, she could ‘shake her thang’ and delight her audiences.
ValLimar Jansen, together with Musical Director Frank Jansen, brings to the stage their “two-person, one-woman show” about this legendary performer.
Born in poverty, Ethel Waters (1896-1977) was the daughter of a 12-year-old rape victim. Ethel grew up unsupervised on the streets of Philadelphia.
“No one raised me, ” she recollected, “I just ran wild.”
She sang and danced at church functions and made her way into Black vaudeville in 1917. Appearing first in Harlem nightclubs and then crossing over into the “white time” vaudeville circuit, she became a celebrated blues singer and starred in twelve Broadway productions, ultimately becoming one of the highest paid entertainers in America. Harold Arlen wrote the song “Stormy Weather” specifically for her. She became the first African-American female to star on a national radio show and a TV series, the first to headline a show at New York’s Palace Theatre and the first to star in a dramatic play on Broadway. In her later years, Waters was nominated for an Academy Award and an Emmy. Ms. Waters became a born again Christian and toured with the Billy Graham Crusade in the last decades of her life.
ValLimar Jansen’s portrayal of this legendary singer has thrilled audiences for more than a decade. Ms. Jansen is herself noted for her vocal performances of jazz, pop, gospel and contemporary Christian music. During the course of the show, Ms. Jansen will perform fourteen of the songs made famous by Ethel Waters, among them “Stormy Weather,” “My Handy Man,” “My Handy Man Ain”™t Handy No More,” “Shake That Thing,” “Am I Blue,” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”
Ms. Jansen is accompanied by husband and Musical Director Frank Jansen. A professional musician for over thirty years, he has performed with stars of Gospel, pop, Latin and R&B music.
“Sweet Mama String Bean” is the recipient of a special commendation from the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Audience members already familiar with Ethel Waters will love this presentation of her story and her music. For younger audience members, the show will be a revelation.
This show is especially for anyone, young or old, who loves the blues.
WHAT: “Sweet Mama String Bean: A Celebration of Blues Woman Ethel Waters.” A musical play.
Starring ValLimar Jansen with Musical Director Frank Jansen. Produced by Kim O”™Rourke and Barbara Goodwin Masters. Directed by Nomi Limar.
Fremont Centre Theatre,
1000 Fremont Ave. (at El Centro), South Pasadena, CA 91030.
Abundant free parking behind theatre.
WHEN: May 20- 23, 2010 *ONLY*
Thurs.- Sat. at 8pm, Sun. at 3pm.
RESERVATIONS: (866) 811-4111, toll-free (Theatermania).
ONLINE TICKETING here
Report by Pauline Adamek