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Theatre Review: Black Pearl Sings

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, April 12, 2010
During the Great Depression, professionally-trained folklorists fanned out across the rural South, looking for traditional songs – the older, the better. When they found a song like this one, they’d make what’s known as a “field recording.”

(Song: “I’m Telling You Sister to Keep Right On Fighting”)

That’s actress Crystal Fox, who plays a dirt poor inmate named Pearl, discovered at a Texas penitentiary in 1935. The folklorist – named Susannah -- is so excited about her find she secures parole, takes Pearl to New York, and gets her to sing for posh intellectuals, who are very impressed.

Soon Pearl realizes she can earn good money as a so-called folk singer, but she needs Susannah’s connections. Susannah sees Pearl as her ticket to tenure in the Ivy League. But she needs Pearl’s cooperation. It’s a complex duet between two feisty women, with nuances involving their racial and educational backgrounds.

This show is a play, but the solo singing is the centerpiece – tapping into the American tradition of spirituals and blues laid down by singers like Odetta and Mahalia Jackson.

"Black Pearl Sings" continues through May 9th at the Sacramento Theatre Company
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