What a wonderful journey. Marie and Rosetta, starring Kecia Lewis and Rebecca Naomi Jones was an authentic and soul-warming trip to 1946 Mississippi’s gospel scene.
SCK Sound Design left nothing to be desired of both Lewis and Jones--whose voices were not the only elements of the performance that were memorable. Guitarist Felicia Collins and pianist Deah Harriott played coyly in the backdrop.
Set in a funeral home, this gospel musical begins with Marie Knight (Rebecca Naomi Jones) playing with Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Kecia Lewis) for the first time. A gospel sensation but falling down the rankings, Tharpe is trying to recapture a more “old church” vibe with Knight. The ensuing 90 minute journey explores multiple facets of young black women in gospel music during the late 40’s.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Kecia Lewis) is a surefire and connivingly sultry gospel singer whose gifts on guitar go unhidden in her career. Lewis captures Tharpe’s spunk and “hips” with gusto, bringing the entire audience with her in each musical number. The house shook on every 2 and 4.
Marie Knight (Rebecca Naomi Jones) pulled the audience into her seemingly innocent spirit and healthy fear of God. Afraid of “hips” and “swing,” Jones walks through Knight’s development into a gospel sensation as it’s woven into the story. Her voice alone pulled everyone in, but Jones and Lewis together had almost every head bopping to the beat.
Both Jones and Lewis were adept at “playing” their instruments (guitar and piano, respectively) but by the end of the performance they couldn’t keep up with Felicia Collins and Deah Harriott’s keying and strumming. Together, all four women made the performance gallop across the room, the audience clapping and stomping by its completion.
Jason Michael Webb’s musical direction makes Marie and Rosetta a must-hear. Director Neil Pepe captured George Brant’s work expertly. If you are looking for a night of music and a story that will bring you to tears as you remember the important friendships in your life then take the time to see Marie and Rosetta.
REVIEW: ALEX LIPARDI
PHOTOS: AHRON R. FOSTER