After a very successful run at the Midtown International Theater Festival,
The new off-Broadway musical Sistas is a nonstop celebration, and Broadway.com jumped at the chance to chat with this show's talented company. Produced by three-time Tony winner Hinton Battle and directed by Smash's Kenneth Ferrone, the production follows five women as they prepare to bury the matriarch of their family. The women discuss their family history and the history of African-American women through popular music spanning from Billie Holiday to Beyonce. We headed to St. Luke's Theatre to talk with stars April Nixon, Jennifer Fouche, Tracey Conyer Lee, Amy Goldberger and Lexi Rhoades about this unique musical. Click below for a sneak peek of the show that has audiences singing, shouting and dancing in the aisles, then head off-Broadway to experience Sistas for yourself!
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Two thumbs up from the audience!
April 28, 2015 - By Natalie Sacks
'Sistas' Soars Through its 4th Year at St. Luke's
Dorothy Marcic's charming and challenging musical about black women will inspire you to sing along.
"I never thought that the weak damsel waiting for Prince Charming really spoke to us as African American women." So Dr. Dorothy Marcic was told, and this sentiment formed the basis of what would eventually become Sistas: the Musical.
Marcic has written a revolutionary little musical, and even in its fourth year Sistas continues to shine. The production follows three sisters, one daughter and one sister-in-law as they prepare to bury the matriarch of their family. As the women recall their shared past with their grandmother and beyond, they take on the history of African American women as well through popular music spanning from Billie Holiday to Beyonce. Sistas is an intelligent feminist critique of modern times told through relatable characters, written for the women whose story it tells.
This musical does not take place in an alternate reality in which people simply burst into song to express their feelings. Instead, as the sisters clean out their grandmother's attic, they sing their way through history trying to choose a song to perform at the funeral, Swiffers as improvised microphone stands and all. And this gregarious family isn't alone belting their hearts out onstage--the audience is encouraged to sing along, and does.
Sistas is a jukebox musical, but rather than taking on the works of one artist or genre, this show travels through the history of black female musicians. Audiences may not be familiar with some of the older songs, but other crowd-pleasers like the rollicking '60s soul medley will have you wanting to dance up to the stage.
As much fun as this musical is, it also does not shy away from confronting big issues that affect many black women's lives head on, from controlling relationships and moving on after a husband's death to sexual assault. Instead, Sistas becomes all about finding joy amidst sadness and misfortune through music. The device of one college professor sister with a doctoral education in the history of African American women, Simone, is used well, elevating the dialogue about "naming and framing the pain" on a larger scale than just their own family without becoming gimmicky or overly academic.
The five women onstage are a solid ensemble even as they portray drastically different characters. There's self-confident single mom Simone (Aurelia Williams), sassy and confrontational Roberta (Jennifer Fouche) and sanctimonious but sincere Gloria (Robyn Payne). Amy Goldberger as Heather plays the sole white woman who married into the family with an appropriate degree of awkwardness, finding deeper meaning in the dialogue between the traditional feminism of Heather's mother and the lived experience of marginalized black women within the movement.
But the unexpected star of the production is Danea Osseni as Simone's daughter Tamika, whose breathtaking performance of break-up anthem "Tyrone" leaves both her aunts and the audience singing and cheering along. And as the older women teach Tamika about her ancestry, we learn along with her, celebrating as she gathers the courage to stand up for herself and do her family proud.
As much as Sistas is a show about the past, it is constantly looking toward the future, imagining what African American women will be able to accomplish in Tamika's generation. And theater like this is certainly a great way to start.
Sistas: the Musical plays at St. Luke's Theatre with an open run.
This was from the Knicks vs. Brooklyn Nets Jan. 2, 2014 game at Madison Square Garden on MLK day.
Sistas, Music for the Heart and Soul
by: Garrett Buhl Robinson
There is an understanding between women that, as a man, will always elude me. When I was a child, I recall my mother and sister communicating in ways I was incapable of comprehending. It was not a conversation of what was said, but of what was understood. Countless times, my sister would pull me aside and try to explain a perspective of the world that I could not see. When entering a room, most men have recognized the change of tone in the conversation between women. Sistas, The Musical, reveals this mysterious world without compromises or self-consciousness.
Sistas takes place, primarily, in the attic of a matriarch’s house. Five ladies rummage through their memories before the matriarch’s memorial services and rediscover their bond for one another. Through their interaction, there is plenty of cajoling, scolding, feisty attitude, and an undeniable abundance of love and music.
Not only is the music beautifully performed, it is revealed. Music is both personal and social. It sets a tone, defines moments in history and imbues the experiences of our lives.
Through history, music not only describes, it reacts. These women take music spanning four generations and portray the struggles and pride of their African American Heritage and their individual lives.
In turn, the music brings vibrancy to their lives while they bring life to the music. Songs need singers, as much as singers need songs. Through their bond, they find themselves singing each other’s songs while bringing each other’s lives into the music they make together.
This musical offers a number of insights into the lives of these ladies, but the beauty is to hear these ladies pour their hearts out in these songs.
Sistas, The Musical, aired on BET, October 27 and is performed on Saturdays and Sundays at St. Luke’s Theater at 308 W. 46th Street.
Garrett Buhl Robinson is a poet and novelist. garrettrobinson.us
(CelebNMusic247-News) Sistas The Musical Is Sensational
Written by CNM248_Admin / June 5, 2013
Artists help tj from Billie Holiday to Beyoncé and even Kelis.
Sistas had me from the start with My Milkshake and kept the energy going higher and higher with each and every song sang throughout the Musical. Produced by Three-time Tony award winner Hinton Battle and directed by Smash’s Kenneth Ferrone, the off-Broadway musical is a must see. If you don’t own this wonderful and masterfully designed musical that tells an empowering message to all women and men, teaching us each step of the way. As the Sistas discover new things about their grandmother they express emotion through lyrics which tells the story in such a vivid light.
There is never a dull moment in the musical as it speeds by. The Musical is easy to watch over and over again while the actress are compelling, motivation and truly captivate you. Our hats are off to the all-female cast which includes, Tracey Conyers Lee (Gloria), Jennifer Fouche (Roberta) Amy Goldberger (Heather), April Nixon (Simone) and Lexi Rhodes (Tamika). Unlike most, Sistas The Musical will keep emotionally attached and will help lift your spirits mind body and soul. The music has an excellent message that we all need to focus on. It’s a journey of Sistas who are all connected and each of them shares their memories explaining their Grandmothers story.
Personally, I loved the musical and highly recommend watch the DVD which released today. Sistas The Musical is actually one of the best plays I’ve seen in a minute. There are so many lessons to be learned from this musical. We highly recommend this player
CelebNMusic247.com gives this musical an 9 of 10!
If you are in New York, then make sure to see off-Broadway musical; Sistas The Musical
Sistas Cast Performs National Anthem at Nets Game in New York
Black Womanist Anthems Shine in 'Sistas: The Musical'
FROM BILLIE HOLIDAY TO BEYONCÉ, HINTON BATTLE'S OFF-BROADWAY PRODUCTION CELEBRATES FEMALE EMPOWERMENT IN SONG
By Ebony / Entertainment & Culture May 2013
When the 92-year-old matriarch of a family dies, five female relatives are left to sort through her belongings in search of the perfect song in tribute to her life and legacy. Thus is the plot of Sistas: The Musical, an Off-Broadway play (running over a year strong) that takes audiences through the stories of the quintet as they walk down memory lane and pop music history.
The musical is the work of playwright Dorothy Marcic, produced by three-time Tony Award winner Hinton Battle and directed by Kenneth Ferrone. Sistas begins as the youngest of the family, Tamika (played by Lexi Rhoades,) twerks her way into her grandmother’s attic to “Milkshake” by Kelis. She’s soon joined by her mother Simone and aunts Roberta, Heather and Gloria who, in short order, school her on family history and womanhood through songs that range from “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” by Billie Holiday to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.”
They women are (nearly) all familiar Black family archetypes. Gloria, played by Tracey Conyer Lee, is the self-righteous church aunt. Badia Farha earnestly plays Simone, a college professor and the sort-of straight woman of the musical. Tamika is the painfully ingenuous sister/daughter/niece. Jennifer Fouché delivers a convincing performance as the cynical and wisecracking Roberta. And one of the “sistas,” Heather, is not actually family but a sister-in-law played by White actress Amy Goldberger.
Between Heather’s well-meaning, naïve attempts to connect with the other characters and Tamika’s youthful ignorance, Sistas has plenty teachable moments. But even those are outshined by a selection of top 40 songs you can’t help but sing along with or wait to hear. In fact, the best moments of the musical come when the songs the audience loves so much match the moment on stage perfectly.
Overall, Sistas is a fun, family-friendly hour of life lessons told through songs that reflect the highs and lows of being Black in America generally and Black womanhood specifically. It’s also a showcase for some of the best music of the past century.
This Off Broadway Production Is a Hidden Jewel and a Musical Delight
By Museum of Uncut Funk - December 10, 2012
Sistas: The Musical had my head bouncing, my toes tapping and my off key voice singing (to myself, of course). This off Broadway production is a hidden jewel and a musical delight.
Back in September, I started compiling my list of things to do for my Curator’s Short List for the rest of the year. This is where I identify a list of restaurants where I want to eat, shopping venues I want to patronize and plays I want to see. Sistas: The Musical made the top of my list. I am glad that I finally got a chance to see it!
Sistas is the musical journey of five women who come together to commemorate the loss of the matriarch of their family, their recently departed Grandmother / Great Grandmother Alice. The play weaves together the lives of three Black sisters, one Black teenaged daughter and one Caucasian sister-in-law, as they share both cherished and difficult moments from their Grandmother’s life and their pasts. The cast of characters includes: Simone, the eldest sister and single parent raising a teenage daughter; Tamika, the teenager who is more interested in her boyfriend than family history; Gloria, the god fearing sister who recites bible verses to cope with her siblings and life; Roberta, the revolution loving sister who is funny and full of life but hiding a painful secret; and Heather, the sister-in-law, who holds her own as she inserts herself into family business. Sistas meshes generational issues, racial politics and the personality differences among these women with an interesting play list of music.
What differentiates this production is the musical selection and the way it transports you along with these women through the decades as they reminisce about their Grandmother’s life and share their own experiences. Taken from the study guide on the Sistas website (http://www.sistasthemusical.com/StudyGuide-Intro.htm), the production “uses popular music sung by African-American women from 1919 through the present time, in order to show social change for Black women and society in general. The music’s trajectory is revealed to go from “Naming the Pain” (A Good Man is Hard to Find) to “Framing the Problem”(I am Not My Hair), to “Proclaiming the Joy” (Just Fine and Golden). This parallels the story of African-American women and their emerging sense of empowerment.”
Hillcrest High School
"Sistas was an Amazing Production! I enjoyed the song choices as much as I loved the story. It tells a story that a lot of African American women can relate to. Not only was it full of information, it was hilarious. Anybody can relate to this play. Definitely something I would see again. "--Marie Marrero 12th grader
"Seeing Sistas make you think of the black culture differently. Not only how they went through slavery and hard times but also the 3 sisters had a great way of telling their story to the audience by every song they sang. The songs that the playwright chose to interpret this story was not only fantastic because you got to sing along to the ones you knew but also very understandable and related to the ply in so many ways. After the show we had an amazing time meeting the actors and seeing their point of view on the play and how they interpreted the play in their own way. We are looking forward to the actors, director and playwright to be guests to our Thespian show --"The Gem of the Ocean" in December. -Kelly Persaud 12th grader
"Sistas, Sistas, Sistas, what can I say about this show? Mmmmmm, well, it was a great show!!! I loved every second of it; from the little announcement in the beginning to the last bow, I was on the edge of my seat. Being such an interesting topic that doesn't get talked about too much. Every line, every song lyric, was delivered in a way that was easy to follow, and with such a fabulous cast and band, it couldn't have gone any other way. We were able to speak to the cast and writer and producer after the show and they answered all our questions with kindness and knowledge. Being that I am a Theatre student very much interested in performing on the "Big Stage" one day I really appreciated every minute they took out of their busy schedule to talk with us. "--Amanda Morris 12th grader
"SISTAS!!!! - This was such an amazing show, at first I was a little skeptical of seeing it being that I usually don’t see a lot of plays- this was actually my second time and it was absolutely amazing from the story line, to the individual characters, the different genres of music from the past to present. It was real inspiring and fascinating how someone of your ethnicity to come up with such a uplifting story that many African American women can be happy to express their culture in a great way. I enjoyed it very much and I've recommended many to see it! You should continue writing your extremely talented!" - Karrone Mills 12th grade :)
"Sistas was an absolutely amazing show, better than half the shows I’ve ever seen on Broadway! I felt really connected with the family relationships. The characters had great chemistry and made the audience feel like we were experiencing a real life situation from behind an invisible wall. The characters in Sistas personally made me appreciate and respect the women of my family much more! I would recommend this show to anyone and everyone, it is just a theatrical masterpiece!" Dianne Ramkumar 12th grade
"I thought Sistas was AMAZING!!! I loved that the musical had songs a lot of people know. I couldn't look away at all when watching this musical. I couldn't help but to smile the whole time. I felt like there was a lot to learn from the musical because it had a lot of history tied into it. It showed the women coming together even though in the beginning they were all snapping at each other. The musical had so many funny moments which helped to keep me interested and wanting more. It was just AWESOME, AMAZING, EXCITING & FUN! I hope a lot more people go see SISTAS because I loved it!!!"
Get a First Look at Tony Winner Hinton Battle and the Cast of Sistas on Smash
By Broadway.com Staff April 27, 2012
OFF-BROADWAY REVIEW: 'Sistas' offers 90 minutes of great songs and powerful messages.
"Now this is a song to celebrate
The conscious liberation of the female state!
Mothers — daughters and their daughters too.
Woman to woman
We're singin' with you."
"Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves," Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin
Dorothy Marcic knows a thing or two about women and popular music.
Her first musical, "RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women," tells the story of women from 1900 to the present. The black cast members of that show asked Marcic to write a similar piece geared toward black women.
The result is "Sistas: The Musical," an inspiring musical journey full of laughter and a few tears.
April Nixon, from left, Amy Goldberger, (middle), Lexi Rhoades, Tracey Conyer Lee and Jennifer Fouche during a Motown medley. / COURTESY RUSS ROLAND
The 90-minute show covers everything from segregation to the women's movement to the meaning of love and control. Featuring songs from Bessie Smith to Mary J. Blige, "Sistas" is based on a series of interviews conducted with black women over a six-year period. A hit during last summer's Midtown International Theater Festival, it is now playing at St. Luke's Theatre on 46th Street.
The story begins with a family going through Grandma Alice's attic. Grandma recently died, and Simone, Roberta, Gloria, Heather and Tamika (Lexi Rhoades) are going through her things. While they are there, they discover a lot about each other as they look for an appropriate song to sing to honor Grandma at her funeral.
Nixon leads the cast as Simone (April Nixon), the eldest sister and a professor who is raising Tamika, her teen daughter, by herself. While the sisters are all independent women, Simone comes across as the rock and protector, the voice of reason full of kindness and wisdom. And yet she does let loose, leading the group in Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," complete with boas. It's lots of fun.
The most interesting character of the five is Roberta (Jennifer Fouche). She's angry at the world, the justice system and seems to want nothing to do with religion. As the story continues, we learn why she is so bitter and frustrated. Throughout the show, Fouche is a real presence. One of the most powerful moments is her rendition of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit."
Marisha Wallace (filling in during a recent performance for Tracey Conyer Lee) impresses with her big gospel voice, and she believably portrays Gloria's love for Jesus. Still, she seems too young for the part. The chemistry between her and the other cast members was strong, but next to Nixon and Fouche, she seems out of place.
As Tamika, Lexi Rhoades convinces as the girl who just wants to have fun. She is at her best singing Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" — when she breaks up with her no-good boyfriend. It's one of the funniest moments in the play. Rhoades struggles, though, with "I Have Nothing." Nobody expects her to have Whitney Houston's range, but director Kenneth Ferrone should realize her limitations.
As Heather, the only white girl on stage, Amy Goldberger inadvertently entertains the audience with some of her moves. At the same time, she also puzzles/annoys them with her character's statements on race. Heather is not a bigot, not even close. After all, she married into the family. But her experiences are far different. She does create some tension with her sisters-in-law, but it never lasts long. Goldberger attempts to be soulful at times, which is not wise. She's fine singing backup, especially during the Motown medley.
Credit must be given to the fine three-piece band tucked off-stage to the left of the audience: Musical director Nicholas Cheng on keyboard, Matt Cusack on bass and Brian Adler on percussion.
At the end of the show, the enthusiastic Marcic walked on stage wanting everyone to spread the word about "Sistas." Deep down, however, she must have realized that her words were unnecessary. The audience, who often sang and clapped along with the cast, was clearly touched and moved by the show's music and messages of love, family, faith, independence and justice.
Put another way: "Sistas" is doing it for itself.
SISTAS - Off Broadway New Musical
Powerful "SISTAS" Hits Off-Broadway
What do you get when you combine five powerful singers, one great story and lots of hit music? You get a new hit Off-Broadway musical called "SISTAS". And fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to see the show in New York City.
When I walked into the theatre on West 46th street, I really did not know what to expect. Many times I have attended off-Broadway productions to be sadly disappointed. I have labored through poor lighting, bad sound systems, poorly written books etc. all in hopes of finding gems among the rubble. With "SISTAS", I have found a solid DIAMOND!
"SISTAS", the new Off-Broadway musical is truly awesome! With an original book written by Dr. Dorothy Marcic, the show takes us on a musical ride of a lifetime. The story is a simple one. Three sisters plus one sister-in-law and one daughter gather in the attic of their recently deceased grandmother to go through her left behind personal items. While they are trying to figure out an appropriate song to perform, in her honor, at an upcoming church service, we get to know all these women very intimately. As they go through grandma's old records etc. we are taken down a road through musical history highlighting some of the best R&B, Pop, Gospel and Soul music from the past 50 plus years.
Songs including gospel classics like: "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round" and "Oh Happy Day!" and modern day hits from: Beyonce Knowles, Whitney Houston, Erykah Badu and India Arie are all included in this show.
The overall way in which playwright, Dr. Marcic writes and molds the lives of these five women together in a cataclysmic synergy of spirit is a sight to behold. The performances of all the casts members including Jennifer Fouche, Amy Goldberger, Tracy Conyer Lee, Lexi Rhoades and April Nixon are high caliber for sure. All their voices are simply breathtaking. One number, in particular, performed by Lexi Rhoades who portrays the character "Tamika", a late teen/early twenty something year old daughter who struggles in a relationship with a young man that is leading to nowhere, sings a 'knock-the-ball-out- of-the-park' rendition of late Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing". Her performance, which brought several audience members to their feet, left us all wanting more.
The show continued to deliver much more as it went on to illustrate many long-known issues faced by African American women throughout history. Covering topics including absentee and runaway male spouses, women's self-image issues, politics, parenting and so much more, the show touches your heart mind and soul. However, the truly great thing about this show is that playwright, Dr. Dorothy Marcic did not make this show all about simply "beating-up" on the African American male. She has carefully crafted a storyline more about humanity's self-image. Whether male or female, she helps us all understand our personal lives more clearly especially, when it comes to judging our family members, friends and others around us. Thinking about this, I am taken aback to one great ensemble number brilliantly staged by director, Kenneth Ferrone, in which he creates a wonderful moment by having all the ladies hold up small hand-held mirrors. Looking at themselves, they sing a gut-retching version of the India Arie popularized song, "I Am Not My Hair".
The show is produced by three time Tony Award winner, Hinton Battle in association with Jenkay LLC., and choreographed by Lauren Lim Jackson.
After the show, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with the show's playwright, Dr. Dorothy Marcic whose career includes work as a Columbia University Professor as well as being a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
During my interview with Dr. Marcic, she was not only extremely warm but very candid about her latest creation. Dr. Marcic, who is Caucasian, says she was first prompted to write this story more than seven years ago when she was approached by a group of African American women who were performing in one of her earlier works. She says they asked her to write something focused on Black women and the issues they considered relevant. Dr. Marcic says she never expected her efforts would endear her to the African American community as it has.
When I asked Dr. Marcic about bringing this show to Off-Broadway, she candidly told me, "One of the most difficult parts was finding the right producers and financing for the show." She had several offers but expressed that she wanted to find the right combination for this particular show. It was not until after presenting the show at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in 2011 that she says everything fell into place.
My interview with Dr. Marcic also gave me the opportunity to ask her about her inclusion of the one and only Caucasian female character in the show, "Heather" (brilliantly played by actress Amy Goldberger). I wanted to know why she included this great character as a part of the story. Dr. Marcic kindly replied, "Many of the issues faced by African American women are the same for other races. In order for me to be able to bring up many of these issues I felt this character was needed." (In the show, the character of "Heather" happens to be very happily married to the brother of the "SISTAS".) Dr. Marcic went on to say, "We White women struggle with the issue of our weight in the same way many African American women struggle with the looks and styles of their hair." (We all laughed.)
DeAlan Wilson with Cast of Off-Broadway show, "SISTAS" in New York City.
SISTAS is currently running off-Broadway at St. Lukes Theatre located at 308 West 46th Street in New York City. For tickets and show times, visit: http://www.sistasthemusical.com/
Review Posted By: DeAlan Wilson (Entertainment Correspondent / Writer / Producer Ð New York City, N.Y.) DeAlan Wilson is a freelance television & film screenwriter and TV show developer. His online publication Comedy Entertainment Magazine and www.ComedyMags.com cover entertainment news & comedy. His blog can be followed at: www.ComedyEntertainmentWorld.Blogspot.com
Walter's World: Sistas the Musical
A fun evening of music and the inspirational power of family was had by all at Sistas the Musical last Thursday. The musical is now running off-Broadway at the St. Luke Theatre (308 West 46th Street) on Thursday at 7 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday at 4:30pm. The musical is a one-act presentation and runs a very quick seventy-minutes without an intermission.
After the death of the family matriarch five female members of her family, sisters Roberta (Jennifer Fouché), Gloria (Tracey Conyer Lee) and Simone (April Nixon) Simone's daughter Tamika (Lexi Rhoades) and a Caucasian sister-in-law Heather (Amy Goldberger), meet in their grandmother's attic. The women go through boxes and open trucks sharing memories of the grandmother's life, her struggles and the struggles of women of color. In the process they affirm their own lives and the lives of women today.
Sistas enjoyed a successful run at the Midtown International Theater Festival 2011. The positive audience response resulted in sold out houses during the festival and encouraged the producers (three-time Tony Award winner Hinton Battle and Jenkay LLC.) to further develop the musical for a run off-Broadway. Aside from reminiscing, each woman has a story of her own to share. These range from sexual abuse to interracial marriage, from self-esteem and single parenting to losing a spouse. These affirmations are then reinforced through the song.
Sistas incorporates 38 songs many of them musical anthems of female empowerment. The songs are literally an American songbook from Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to The Supremes and Beyoncé. Allowing the talented cast to effortlessly take us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, while remaining thought-provoking, enlightening and upbeat. The music is the backdrop to a well-crafted script by playwright Dorothy Marcic and on target directing by Kenneth Ferrone.
One of the most gratifying aspects of the musical is that although it is an all female cast the musical does not bash men! This makes it a perfect date night. For more information and tickets visit www.sistasthemusical.com, www.telecharge.com or call 212 239-620. Group sales are available.
Rus Rowland photographer
Open Field Interviews - December 21, 2011
December 31, 2011
Sistas: The Musical, the storied musical journey of African American women from Bessie Smith to Beyonce through Top-40 music officially opened on Sunday, October 23, 2011, Off-Broadway at the St. Luke's Theatre (308 West 46th Street) to rave reviews after a very successful run at the Midtown International Theater Festival. Nightly, theatergoers happily leave the play with a smile on their face and humming one of the memorable songs from the full of fun musical.
The 90-minute musical sans intermission stars Jennifer Fouché, Amy Goldberger, Tracey Conyer Lee, April Nixon and Lexi Rhoades, and is produced by 3-time Tony winner Hinton Battle, and Jenkay, LLC (Jay Harris and William Franzblau).
The side-splitting fun play is written by Dorothy Marcic (writer of Respect: The Musical, which has played in 20 cities), and stunningly directed by Kenneth Ferrone. All members of the play's production team know a thing or two about successful musicals having all been involved in many hit musicals. They can now add this play to their winning trophy case.
After a matriarch's death, the women in the family clean Grandma's attic and find love and old memories packed away, and in the process, hit tunes that trace the history of Black women, from the trials of the 1930s through the Girl Groups of the 60s to the empowerment of the 90s.
Three sisters (Jennifer Fouché, Tracey Conyer Lee and April Nixon); their white sister-in-law (Amy Goldberger); and Lexi Rhoades who plays April Nixon's daughter prepare for the funeral of the family's 92-year-old matriarch. When we meet the sisters, they are in their grandmother's attic as they prepare for an appropriate song to sing.
During their search, their individual experiences begin to unravel and they learn compelling things about each other that they never knew before including sexual abuse. In the end they triumph over adversity becoming victors instead of victims from pain and fear. All of this while singing a happy tune or a relatable song.
Sistas: The Musical is a warm and touching story about friendship and family. Marcic's true accounts of the Black woman's spirituality resonate in her writing. She truly captures our essence in a very engaging way. "I wrote 'Sistas The Musical' because I love the music of African American women," states Marcic. "And I saw how the music tells their story and how uplifting that story is. It's the story of love, of family, of overcoming obstacles and ultimate triumph of spirit."
The 3-man soulful band — Nicholas Cheng (keyboard); Matt Cusack (bass); Brian Adler (percussion) — garnered deafening applause throughout the production playing hit after hit. Many times, when you play in an intimate venue such as the St. Luke's Theatre, a live band tends to drown out the performers. This never happened here as the band accompanied the singers like a teacher does her class on a field trip.
Songs included "Oh, Happy Day," "Mama Said," "I Will Survive," "Tyrone," "I Am Not My Hair," "We Are Family," Stormy Weather," Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," "God Bless the Child," Strange Fruit," Sweet Talkin' Guy," "Take My Hand Precious Lord," "Milkshake," Say a Little Prayer," "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." and "A Woman's Worth."
During this Yuletide Season, when you make your list and check it twice, make sure that Sistas: The Musical is on it! The creative team behind Sistas: the Musical includes Ed Staudenmayer (associate director); Nicholas Cheng (musical director); Germono Toussaint (additional arrangements); Lauren Lim Jackson (choreographer); Renee Marino (associate choreographer); Kia Rogers (lighting designer); Josh Iacovelli (set designer); Tricia Barsamian (costume designer); and Sam Mattingly (general press representative).
At show's end guests joined the cast at an after party in an intimate room at the theater that was hosted by Marcic and the producers. Guests lined up to offer their congratulations to the captivating cast and vowed that they would come back and bring their sisters with them. (Photo Credit: Lawrence Gallmon)
December 24, 2011
When I left "Sistas: The Musical" on Saturday evening, I had a lot of reflecting to do, because this show has many layers. On the surface, it is a marvelous time listening to a talented cast of women singing some great hits from Black female artists like Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Diana Ross and Gloria Gaynor, bringing you into modern times with singers like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and Macy Gray.
The songs take you through a history of music that includes women revealing their feelings through the blues, gospel, love songs and spirited songs declaring they don't care if anyone else approves of their men. Other songs simply told men off and displayed the strong spirit of the Black woman.
Selected songs in the show include "Oh Happy Day," "Ain't Nobody's Business," "God Bless the Child," "Precious Lord," "Strange Fruit," "You Just Keep Me Hanging On," "Call Tyrone," "Single Ladies" and "I Will Survive."
Playwright Dorothy Marcic found a perfect way to bring all of these songs together into a story that demands your attention. As the female members of a family gather to go through the attic of their deceased great-grandmother, they tell stories of the past and discover materials that she left behind that divulge more information about what Black women have endured.
There are three sisters: Roberta (Jennifer Fouché), Gloria (Tracey Conyer Lee) and Simone (April Nixon). Also in the play is Tamika (Lexi Rhoades), Simone's daughter, and Heather (Amy Goldberger), a white sister-in-law. As these ladies go through the items in the attic, they talk about how their great-grandmother had been a maid and how her white employer spoke down to her.
They talk of the hurt the family has endured due to racism, when one of the male members chose to be an entrepreneur and was killed by the Klan in the South. There are many revealing family stories that are discussed. Each character is also revealed, as they have issues that need to come to the surface.
On the final level, this story is about the strength and power of the Black woman, and it is a beautiful and uplifting story to see and share. I took my 9-year-old daughter and she had a marvelous time. All five of the actresses have fabulous singing voices and clearly put their hearts into every number.
You will find yourself singing along, clapping and definitely sympathizing with what these characters are going through, as well as identifying with what the elder Black women in their lives had to endure for them to be the women they are today. "Sistas: The Musical" is an acknowledgment of where we came from and who we have become today!
Marcic's story is perfectly directed by Kenneth Ferrone and is presented by multiple Tony Award winner Hinton Battle and Jenkay LLC. It is playing at St. Luke's Theatre, at 308 W. 46th St., in an open-ended run. For more information, visit www.sistasthemusical.com.
December 22, 2011
Talented Teens and Stellar Performers Illuminate Harlem Stage On the Plaza
The holiday season in the Village of Harlem recently came to life as Harlem's own Grammy and Oscar nominated music group Impact Repertory Theatre and youth groups, including Vy Higginsen's Gospel for Teens and the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts' Voices of Excellence choir, took center stage on the plaza of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building for the 35th annual Harlem Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Hosted by NY1 News leading anchorwoman Cheryl Wills, the festive, outdoor, family affair also featured a soulful holiday greeting from R&B song stylist Alyson Wiulliams who moved the crowd with her own personal rendition of "This Christmas." Three time Tony Award winner Hinton Battle was also on hand.
Broadway community's most respected musical star debuted his first inspirational single, "When I Walk," and later introduced cast members from his latest off Broadway production, "Sistas."
Read entire issue of New York Beacon - December 22, 2011 (PDF). Excerpts about SISTAS on pp 27 & 30.
December 15, 2011
New York Beacon Hosts Matinee Performance of Sistas: The Musical
On Sunday, December 4, 2011, the New York Beacon hosted a matinee performance for Sistas: The Musical playing Off Broadway at the St. Lukes Theatre for 60 people. Sistas: the Musical, the story of African American women through Top-40 music, is produced by 3-time Tony winner Hinton Battle, written by Dorothy Marcic (writer of "RESPECT: The Musical," which has played in 20 cities), and directed by Kenneth Ferrone. The play stars Tracey Conyer Lee, Lexi Rhoades, April Nixon, Jennifer Fouché, and Amy Goldberger. After a smashing performance, Battle was joined by Marcic onstage to thank the audience for attending this special performance and for their support, and to thank and acknowledge the staff of the New York Beacon including the paper's co-publisher Miatta Haj Smith. The overwhelming consensus was that everyone loved the play and could not wait to get their buzz on. Some were even so carried away that they just couldn't wait to spread the news and tweeted during the 90-minute production sans intermission. If you would like to host your own theater party for a performance of this magnificent production, call the play's press representative, Sam Mattingly, SM Communications, at 917-331-9375, who was very instrumental in the NYB hosting this glorious performance. Following the performance, some of the guests continued their favorable comments over drinks at the famous B. Smith's restaurant just up the street from the theatre.
Read entire review (PDF document)
They're Not the Supremes, But they Know the Tunes!
Dorothy Marcic’s “Sistas: The Musical,” now playing at St. Luke’s Theater, is a sweet and sassy ...little show. Three sisters (Jennifer Fouché, Tracey Conyer Lee and Lexi Rhoades); their mother (April Nixon); and their white sister-in-law (Amy Goldberger) prepare for the funeral of the family’s 92-year-old matriarch. One sister was sexually abused; one is throwing away her life on a worthless man who mistreats her; one has become deeply religious; and the mother is an overachiever who was valedictorian at Spelman. They discuss lynchings, freedom riders, SNCC, racial profiling, feminism, hair weaves (“Black women have the same relationship with their hair that white women have with their weight,” one character observes), weakness versus vulnerability, and the difference between “naming the pain” and wallowing in it.
...The real reason you’re there is for the songs, which range from Ms. Fouché’s powerful rendition of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do” to a ’60s soul medley that hits the heights with “Stop! In the Name of Love,” sung by all five women wearing makeshift gold lamé gowns. The group number “Single Ladies” is pretty great too.
In the end it’s a good-natured, low-budget evening with plenty of humor and some impressive voices.
Playwright Dorothy Marcic is interviewed on "Talk! with Audrey Adams"
Sistas was featured on ABC, New York HERE AND NOW.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
THE WEEK AHEAD - OCTOBER 23-29
"Sisterhood is powerful" should acquire new resonance this week with two musical productions that have assembled their own special sororities. The differences between them suggest that sisters, like Sergio Leone's cowboys, fall into the categories of the good, the bad and the ugly.
If it's sisterly love you're after, there's Dorothy Marcic's "SISTAS: THE MUSICAL" at St. Luke's Theater. Directed by Kenneth Ferrone, this inspirational songbook follows the women of an African-American family from the days of Jim Crow to the present, a journey filled with songs made famous by the likes of Billie Holiday and Beyoncé. Opening Sunday night, 308 West 46th Street, Manhattan; (212) 239-6200, stlukestheatre.com; $29.50 to $69.50.
Name the Pain and Proclaim Your Power Through Music
Posted by Editorial Staff on Monday, July 25, 2011
Playwright Dorothy Marcic declares the significance of African-American women's "herstory" through music in her spirited new off-Broadway production, "Sistas the Musical." Marcic's "sistas" find solace and honesty in a musical journey from Ma Rainey to Beyonce that helps them explore painful experiences and find the strength to press on as a family of empowered women. With songs like "I Will Survive," "Greatest Love of All," and "Single Ladies," the musical tells the story of a family's search for unity and love and expresses appreciation for female trailblazers we often take for granted.
"We have so many freedoms now...You kind of forget the life women lived," explains Dorothy Marcic, a professor at Columbia University and former Fulbright Scholar. Her piece shows African-American women have always been at the forefront of music with honest lyrics and captivating stories told through song. Such frankness and storytelling is so important in this day and age of uncertainty and cover-ups. "This is a time we need truth; to hear the truth and speak the truth. African-American women have been doing that all along," she adds.
"Something about music just goes to your soul. There's a song for everything." For sensational "Sistas" actress, Patrice Covington, music acts as an escape, connection, and memory. "Music is how you meet everything," she shares.
While Marcic is in-tune with her creative passion, she also juggles the business aspect of producing inspirational musicals, such as "RESPECT: Women and Popular Music and Love Lift Me Higher." Tackling the details of investors, advertisement, public relations, and inevitable obstacles, Dorothy understands the most important point is to maintain organization. "You can't be creative when you're tied in knots," she reasons. According to Marcic, "All it takes is time, energy, and focus...It's fun if you make all the pieces work."
To aspiring playwrighters, Dorothy encourages the constant reading and watching of great plays and developing a body of work. What better way to start than by experiencing "Sistas the Musical" this month.
For more information visit: www.sistasthemusical.com
July 23, 2011
'Peg O' My Heart' & 'Sistas' At Midtown International Theatre Festival
I saw two musicals the other day, both very impressive, spanning different time periods, generations and ethnicities, but similar because both offer fine historical overviews.
"Sistas: The Musical" is a revue with a story about the strife of African-American women told through song featuring music from the 30's to present day. The women are brought together by the death of Grandma Alice, the matriarch of the family, as relationships flare and share as they rummage through memories in the attic. It is written by playwright Dorothy Marcic, a professor at Columbia University, who authored 14 books including RESPECT: Women and Popular Music; the musical RESPECT, subsequently touring throughout the U.S.
The women, while searching for an appropriate song for Grandma Alice's memorial, engage in the heartbreak and joys of African-American women everywhere as their story comes to life - from oppression to empowerment.
Tamika (Patrice Covington), the youngest of the group is equipped with typical gear, bopping and listening to music on her earphones and texting on her cell; her cousins Gloria (Angela K. Thomas) and Roberta (Jennifer Fouche) more seriously involved in the memories, misfortunes and realities of strife as tunes like "My Man," "Tain't Nobody's Business" and "God Bless the Child" recount stories with references to Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday. Tamika's mom Simone (Gayle Samuels), a Phd. at a university, speaks about Betty Friedan and the women's movement, relating it to Bessie Smith who sang about it 90 years earlier, as the talk turns to bigotry, hardship and the expression of the spirit of African-American women.
Roberta is angered, intent on the sacrifices the women have made, the history and horrors as she soulfully sings "Strange Fruit," her deep bluesy sound quite impressive. Briana Davis plays Heather, the white girlfriend, who bears the brunt of anger that erupts as she attempts to assuage the bitterness.
The show takes a lighter turn about halfway through, as it turns to glamour, boyfriends and music like "Mama Said," Baby, I'm Yours," Say a Little Prayer," Stop in the Name of Love" and a rip-roaring R E S P E C T.
Tamika is the comic relief as Simone does her turn on "I Will Survive." Chatter turns to hair relaxers and "white women worry about weight; black women worry about hair" as they sing "I Am Not My Hair." "Call Tyrone" gets a lot of audience reaction, as does "All the Single Ladies." Tamika does a bang up job with a Whitney Houston tune. There's a bit of proselytizing from Gloria about God, independence and inter-dependence, lessons are learned and a happy ending with "We Are Family."
They are accompanied by a trio, Musical Director Charles Geizhals. The show is directed by Kenneth Ferrone; Choreography is by Lauren Lim-Jackson.
Patrice Covington, Briana Davis, Angela K. Thomas Cast in Sistas: The Musical
By Andrew Gans
SISTAS: The Musical, the story of African-American women told through popular music, from "God Bless the Child" to Destiny's Child, will begin a limited run of six performances July 11 at the Abingdon Theater's June Havoc Theater.
Directed by Kenneth Ferrone, the cast includes Patrice Covington, Briana Davis, Jennifer Fouche, Gayle Samuels and Angela K. Thomas.
"After a matriarch's death," press notes state, "the women in the family clean Grandma's attic and find love and old memories packed away, and in the process, hit tunes that trace the history of black women, from the trials of the 1930's through the Girl Groups of the 60's to the empowerment of the 90's." Songs include "Oh, Happy Day," "Mama Said," "I Will Survive," "Tyrone," "I am Not My Hair" and "A Woman's Worth."
Dorothy Marcic, who also wrote Respect, penned the libretto.
"Sistas The Musical" is a highly anticipated new musical from playwright Dorothy Marcic. Sistas will premiere at Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York on Monday, July 11.
Sistas is the story of African-American women told through popular music, from "God Bless the Child" to "Destiny's Child," taking audience members on a musical journey from "Mama Said" to "Mr. Big Stuff" to "Tyrone" to "Single Ladies."
Sistas opens with a family's search for what's important after a tragedy. Their voyage takes them through old family emblems as the audience walks down memory lane with the piece into a musical celebration.
Overall, Sistas is a story about friendship, family and the important things in life. "I wrote 'Sistas The Musical' because I love the music of African-American women," states playwright Dorothy Marcic. "And I saw how the music tells their story and how uplifting that story is. It's the story of love, of family, of overcoming obstacles and ultimate triumph of spirit."
"Sistas The Musical" is a part of The Midtown International Theatre Festival, now in its twelfth year, celebrating the diversity of theatre. Sistas will run from Monday, July 11 - Sunday, July 31 (selected dates; see below) at June Havoc Theatre - Abingdon Theatre Complex, 312 West 36th Street, New York, N.Y. 10018.
The cast of 'Sistas' includes: Angela K. Thomas, Gayle Samuels, Briana Davis, Patrice Covington and Jennifer Fouche.*
About the Playwright: Dr. Dorothy Marcic is a professor at Columbia University and a former Fulbright Scholar, author of 14 books, including "Managing with the Wisdom of Love" and "RESPECT: Women and Popular Music" (upon which her first musical was based) and most recently, "Love Lift Me Higher." She lives in Nashville and New York.
About the Director: Kenneth Ferrone recently Associate Directed the Broadway musical, Wonderland as well as the Off-Broadway premiere of In Transit. Recent New York credits include work at Primary Stages, Atlantic Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, Robert Moss Theatre, the Hudson Theatre, and NYC International Fringe Festival. Regionally, Kenneth has worked at the Alley Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre, Steppenwolf, and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
Theatre Performance - Sistas: The Musical
Sistas: The Musical is the story of African-American women told through popular music, from "God Bless the Child" to "Destiny's Child," using hit tunes to trace the history of black women, from the trials of the 1930's through the Girl Groups of the 60's to the empowerment of the 90's. This soulful, laugh-out-loud show takes the audience on a musical journey from pain to pride to power. After a matriarch''s death, the women in the family clean Grandma's attic and find love and old memories packed away.
Writer: Dorothy Marcic, Director: Kenneth Ferrone. The cast of Sistas includes: Patrice Covington, Briana Davis, Jennifer Fouche, Gayle Samuels, and Angela K. Thomas
SISTAS NOMINATED AS "BEST NEW MUSICAL"
April 25, 2012:
"An extraordinary musical that uses Grammy-winning hit songs to convey the journey of African Amercian Women has satisfied the souls of many. No other Off-Broadway Musical I've seen has generated so much enthusiasm as Sistas. Those stereotypical notions of the African American experience for women has been rooted with Oral Tradition to empower its meaningfulness. With an exciting performance by April Nixon's portrayal of Simone, the actress fosters our belief that education can be a conventional way to connect heritage with our perception of reality. Roberta's sensational role honors familihood by singing songs to promote the idea of survival. Furthermore, married to this production is a skillful pianist whose supportive power embraces the drummer as he beats into our hearts with a sense of Jazziness. This is why I proclaim that Sistas is AMAZING!"
"I went expecting to hear some 'oldies but goodies' and was blindsided by the excellent story ( a monologue by the character, Roberta, brought me and most of the people to tears). Five women grab you when they take the stage and don't let go until you're on your feet begging for more! I don't want to give too much away; but, the energy, the story and the ability of these characters to draw you into their world is amazing. The singing alone is worth the ticket!"
"This engaging musical production leaves you elated. The life of a matriarch intertwined with the lived experiences of her female descendants is relived through the musical legacy of female singers spanning some 80 years."
"Saw the show last night - one word BRILLIANT! It was a refreshing perspective on our journey. Take your daughters to see this show...especially teenagers. Highy recommended and very affordable."
"Thank you for an AMAZING show ladies! What a powerhouse of talent and what a great show...wishing you all the best for a fantastic run and sending you all good vibes that it will have a life after the MITF! Brava!!!"
"What a treat! This play deserves to be sold out every night! Grab some friends and go on this journey of "sistas"...you won't regret it!"
"I had a WONDERFUL time, GREAT performance, extremely TALENTED ladies!!!!"
"You ladies were great!!! This was one of the best musicals I have ever seen. It made me laugh, it made cry, it made me sad and then it made me happy! I hope I will have the opportunity to see the show again...come back!"