By Mary Boyle
Way back in 1928, the Library of Congress created the Archive of American Folk-Song. While there was a movement to collect Scottish and Irish Ballads already underway, department head, Robert Gordon, dreamed of collecting the songs of all the people, and he sent "song-catchers" around the country, from churches to prisons, to record cowboy ballads, work songs, field hollers, and even the music of Native American tribes. The story of these people is the inspiration for The Rep's newest Stackner Cabaret production, Black Pearl Sings!
Susannah Mullally (Colleen Madden) is a single woman from New York, working to earn her place as a professor at Harvard by collecting the songs of slavery and, hopefully, finding a song that traveled with slaves from Africa to North America. While visiting a women's prison farm in Texas in the summer of 1933, she discovers Alberta "Pearl" Johnson (Lynette DuPree), a woman who's life was built on songs. Desperate to get out and find her daughter, who she knows is in trouble, "Pearl" trades help from Susannah for songs. Although they both have what the other needs, it's their mutual love of music that will save them.
Directed by Leda Hoffman, with Music Direction by Abdul Hamid Royal, Pearl is a testament to the power of music and its ability to redeem a soul, but also music's ability to record and preserve our history and culture. DuPree is a vocal wonder, giving personality, meaning and life to each song she sings, while Madden is her vocal opposite; light and lilting, where DuPree is rich and powerful. Equal parts moving and funny, these two talented women bring the audience into their well-told tale, offering an immersive glimpse of 1930's America.
Black Pearl Sings! runs through March 18th at the Stackner Cabaret, located at 108 E. Wells St. in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by phone at 414-224-9490, or in person at the Ticket Office (108 E. Wells Street).
About The Rep
In its 64th Season, Milwaukee Repertory Theater is dedicated to providing the highest level of professional theater to Milwaukee and Wisconsin, in addition to offering a wide range of educational and community programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director, Mark Clements, and Managing Director, Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee's rich diversity.