Entertainment

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents ‘Tribute to Mahalia Jackson’ in Sarasota

The cast of “How I Got Over: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson” includes Neyce Pierre, Tarra Conner Jones and Ariel Blue.
The cast of “How I Got Over: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson” includes Neyce Pierre, Tarra Conner Jones and Ariel Blue. Donald J. Daly

If you’ve only heard of one gospel singer, chances are that singer is Mahalia Jackson.

Beginning Wednesday, Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is premiering “How I Got Over,” a musical revue based on Jackson’s life and music. It runs through Aug. 14.

The show was conceived and directed by Nate Jacobs, the artistic director of WBTT.

Besides being widely regarded as the Queen of Gospel, Jackson, who died in 1972 at age 60, was one of the leading civil rights activists of the mid-20th century. Fellow singer/activist Harry Belafonte once called her “the single most powerful black woman in the United States.”

Musically, she was influenced by church hymns as well as such blues artists as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. She worked with some of the biggest artists of the time and earned several Grammy awards, including one awarded posthumously for lifetime achievement. She famously sang at the 1963 March on Washington at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and later at King’s funeral.

“How I Got Over” includes more than 30 traditional gospel songs, and celebrates Jackson and other music from her era, including The Caravans, Albertina Walker, Dorothy Love Coates, Shirley Caesar and Tommy Dorsey. The cast of singers is joined by dancers and a live four-piece band.

Details: July 13-Aug. 14, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $38 adults, $22 students. 941-366-1505, westcoastblacktheatre.org.

Marty Clear: 941-708-7919, @martinclear

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