Mama, I Want To Sing, the classic 1983 gospel musical created by Vy Higginsen, will celebrate its 30th anniversary tonight, March 23, 2013 with a very special performance of Mama, I Want To Sing: The Next Generation at The Dempsey Theater, located in Harlem at 127 West 127th Street, between Lenox and 7th Avenues.
This Gala event, taking place exactly 30 years to the day from when the original production opened in Harlem to great acclaim, benefits Gospel for Teens, a program of the Mama Foundation for the Arts' School for Gospel, Jazz, and R&B Arts. Tickets, which include a post-performance celebration of culture and community -- featuring the most soulful food Harlem has to offer -- are $300.00 and are available by calling the Mama Foundation for the Arts at (212) 280-1045.
The Gala is hosted by an illustrious Benefit Committee, Chaired by Lesley Stahl (Emmy winner for her "60 Minutes" profile on Gospel for Teens), that includes numerous recording legends: with over twenty Grammys to her credit, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin; 10-time Grammy Award-winner Chaka Khan (who won the prestigious Capitol Radio Listener's Poll Award for London's Best Actress for her performances in Mama, I Want To Sing in the West End); two-time Grammy Award-winner Cissy Houston (who appeared in Ms. Higginsen's production of This Is My Song at Madison Square Garden); 11-time Grammy Award-winner Shirley Caesar (who appeared in Mama, I Want To Sing at the Theater at Madison Square Garden); and songwriter-performer Valerie Simpson, along with Ms. Higginsen.
Mama, I Want To Sing tells the story of a talented young girl who dreams of leaving her church choir to pursue a life in popular music, despite strong objections from her mother. A tribute to the many African-American artists with church choir roots who rose to fame in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, creator Vy Higginsen based her musical on the life of her sister, Doris Troy, whose 1963 hit "Just One Look" launched her to international fame. Mama, I Want To Sing has book and lyrics by Ms. Higginsen and Ken Wydro, and original music by Wesley Naylor.
The original production of Mama, I Want To Sing opened on March 23, 1983 in Harlem at The Heckscher Theater. The show played for eight years and over 2,500 performances in New York (1983-1991), becoming the longest-running Black Off-Broadway musical in history. Mama, I Want To Sing went on to play another 1,000 performances through a three-year tour across the USA; a run in London's West End; several European tours (Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia); multiple appearances in the Caribbean; and seven tours throughout Japan. Over the years such noted performers as Doris Troy, Shirley Caesar, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Deniece Williams, Tisha Campbell, Octavia Lambertis, Desiree Coleman, D'Atra Hicks, Stacy Francis, Ben Vereen, and Ciara have appeared in stage and film versions of Mama, I Want To Sing.
Mama, I Want To Sing: The Next Generation, a revival directed by Mr. Wydro, opened at The Dempsey in April 2011 and has been thrilling audiences ever since. Mama, I Want To Sing: The Next Generation stars Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson as Doris, Bettina Pennon as Mama, Sandra Huff as Sister Carrie, Tyrone Flowers as Reverend Winters, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as the Minister of Music. The cast also features members of the Gospel for Teens Choir in the ensemble.