Gospel and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Rosetta Tharpe gets her due in a lively new musical from the creator of ‘A Night With Janis Joplin.’
In 2008, the State of Pennsylvania declared Jan. 11 Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day and held a concert to raise funds for a marker for her grave. The fact that the final resting place of this gospel and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer had been neglected may have caused a backlash, spawning biographies and documentaries, as well as a 2014 off-Broadway play, Marie and Rosetta. From director Randy Johnson (A Night With Janis Joplin), Shout Sister Shout! offers spirit-raising gospel, proto-rock and rhythm and blues courtesy of a rousing cast. Tracy Nicole Chapman, whose Broadway credits include The Lion King and Caroline, or Change, headlines an irrepressible evening of song, her acrobatic vocalizations fusing bravura with tenderness.
In her time, Tharpe was lauded for guitar work equal to that of any man. In fact, she could outplay most of them. It’s no surprise she was a victim of sexism and racism, and her final resting place nearly forgotten. While Shout Sister Shout! serves as a necessary theatrical testament to an American treasure, it’s also a rollicking celebration of her joyous spirit.
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