Ford’s Theatre will be presenting the East Coast premiere of “SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!” by Cheryl L. West and directed by Kenneth L. Roberson opening this week and playing at the historic theatre until May 13, 2023. The show is based on the biography entitled “Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe” by Gayle F. Wald who is presently a professor of American Studies as George Washington University.
The show stars Broadway actor, Carrie Compere as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Joining Compere in the cast are another Broadway performer, Carol Dennis, as Rosetta’s mother; Kelli Blackwell as Mahalia Jackson; Felicia Boswell as Marie Knight; Joseph Anthony Byrd as Cab Calloway; Joe Mallon as Richie; Keenan McCarter as Dizzy Gillespie; Sinclair Mitchell as Reverend Tharpe; Raquel Jennings, Jarran Muse, David Rowen, and Nia Savoy-Dock in multiple roles; Jamal Anthony Shuriah as Little Richard and others; and Jalisa Williams as Showgirl.
Sheldon Epps, Ford Theatre’s Senior Artistic Advisor (read our interview with him here), is the production supervisor. He guided the first premiere and iteration of this show at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2017 when he was the artistic director there. A revised version ran at Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2019 and Epps helped bring the show to Ford’s Theatre, with more refinements by playwright Cheryl L. West.
The creative team also includes William Carlos Angulo as Choreographer; Sheilah V. Walker as Musical Director; Joseph Joubert as Orchestrator and Arranger; Tim Mackabee, Scenic Design; Alejo Vietti, Costume Design; Charles G. LaPointe, Hair and Wig Design; Alan C. Edwards, Lighting Design; Sun Hee Kil, Sound Design; and local talents, Jenny Male and Sierra Young as Fight and Intimacy Coordinators.
Carrie Compere: This is Carrie Compere Ford’s debut. Broadway: “The Color Purple” (Revival), “Holler If Ya Hear Me.” Off-Broadway: “Daddy, Golden Apple.” Regional: “SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!” “Newsies,” “The Lightning Thief.” Touring/First National Tour: “The Color Purple,” “Shrek the Musical.” Television and Film: “Many Saints of Newark” (Warner Bros), “The Crew,” “City On A Hill,” “Law and Order,” “Manifest,” “New Amsterdam,”” Seven Seconds,” “NYC 22,” “Show Boat: Live at Lincoln Center.”
Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I was born in Southern California in a city called Westminster. When I was three, my family relocated and I was raised in Trenton, New Jersey. Jersey is definitely home for me. My husband, Jerry and I have two children, Isaiah and Pneuma. I started doing church plays and community theater, not knowing I would eventually make acting a career. I have been blessed to experience making amazing art on the Broadway stage and stages across the country.
If you could ask Sister Rosetta Tharpe one question, what would that be?
I have so many questions for her, but one that stands out to me is “Where did you find the courage to do things that had never been done before?”
Which of her recordings is your favorite and why?
I can’t say that I have a favorite, because she recorded so many songs that are staples in the world of music. But, one of my favorites is ‘How Bout You.’ I love the purity of heart in the words.
What do you hope audiences learn about Sister Rosetta Tharpe from this production?
Anyone can google Sister Rosetta Tharpe or go to YouTube and find videos of her performing, but I want the audience to get a picture of the little girl from Cotton Plant, Arkansas who became this amazing woman who had to fight to find her way. There was no blueprint for her success. I want people to connect to her humanity, her trials, triumphs, and her music…and then leave singing!
Is there another person or role you would like to play in the future?
I can’t name a specific person or role right now, but I’m open to all the possibilities. What I am sure of is that I love original works. I know there are more unsung heroes, more characters to be created, and more stories to tell. I love to play on stage and screen. So, I am always open to opportunities that allow me to do that in the best way.
“SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!” runs from March 15-May 13, 2023 at Ford’s Theatre, 551 Tenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20004. Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Recommended for ages 12 and older. For more information and tickets, you can call the Box Office at (202) 347-4833 or toll free (888) 616-0270, 8:30 am-5 pm, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online.
COVID Safety: Face masks are strongly encouraged during all mainstage performances. For more information, go to this link.