Sistas The Musical is about a group of sisters who, after learning of their grandmother’s passing, get together to choose a song for her memorial service. While cleaning out their grandmother’s attic, the sisters come across mementos that not only uncover the struggles, heartbreaks and triumphs of this special woman, but also their own and those of all Black women.
The story begins in grandma’s attic, where young Tamika (played by Lexi Rhoades) is listening to “Milkshake” by Kelis, dancing in a way that is popular among today’s youth but frowned upon by their parents. In walks Aunt Gloria, (played by Tracey Conyer Lee) who voices her disapproval of Tamika’s choice of music. Gloria’s sister Roberta (played by Jennifer Fouché), who comes in after her, agrees with Gloria. Tamika’s mother Simone (played by April Nixon), hearing her sister’s comments, defends her daughter, explaining that all generations had music that was considered “devil’s music”. Simone has made a career of studying African American music and how it relates to the Black experience, specifically that of Black women. The sisters use music to speak on different subjects that affected their own lives and to educate Tamika, who is of the Facebook generation and clueless about her history, as well as their sister-in-law Heather (played by Amy Goldberger), a White woman married to their brother Calvin.
Sistas The Musical is a lively, touching, often funny and always uplifting show that kept me invested in each character and what they had to say. Roberta is the sassy, hilarious and sometimes angry sister who rejects church and doesn’t sugar coat the experiences Blacks have gone and continue to go through. But Roberta has a secret that not even her own sisters know about and, once revealed, is one that explains so much about who she is. Gloria is the sister who was happily married until she lost the love of her life and turned to God and the church for healing. Simone is the educated sister who provides all of the historical information about Black music, from the 1920s up to today. But she also talks about her struggles raising Tamika as a single mother and how she was able to get through it all. Sister-in-law Heather is loved by her husband’s family and more open-minded than most, but even she needs to be educated on what being Black is all about. Tamika, the youngest member of this quintet, loves her Mom, her family and, of course, a man who isn’t good for her. It will take these four phenomenal women and the guidance they received from their grandmother to show Tamika what she truly deserves out of life.
What I loved about this show is it provides a wealth of information about what being a Black woman in America is all about through music. The Supremes, Alicia Keys, Ma Rainey, Jill Scott and Whitney Houston are just a few of the famous divas who put their experiences into song. Sistas The Musical contains some outstanding musical numbers thanks to the songs chosen, but mainly because of the voices of all five women. These women can sing! And each one has a standout performance that makes it extremely hard to pick a favorite, at least for me. Ms. Fouché has an extremely powerful voice that comes through when she sings Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” so much so that I had to watch it several times because her performance was that good. Ms. Nixon’s rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” had me dancing in my living room, while her performance of Billie Holiday’s “Stormy Weather” was absolutely lovely. Ms. Lee’s performance of gospel legend Mahalia Jackson’s “Precious Lord” was one of the best version’s I’ve ever heard. Ms. Goldberger’s performance of Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” is sweet and sad at the same time. And Ms. Rhoades’ version of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” is absolutely outstanding. Whitney Houston’s songs are unbelievably hard to get right, even for the most seasoned singer. But Ms. Rhoades performs the song with such feeling that I found myself getting choked up. But these ladies truly shine when they sing as a group. My favorite performance by all five ladies is when they sing songs by The Supremes and Ms. Aretha Franklin. I found myself singing and dancing (again) because I love those songs, but also because they all perform with such enthusiasm and sheer fun.
I was glad to hear that Sistas The Musical is currently being performed Off Broadway with the same cast seen on the DVD. I plan to make my way to the theatre to see these remarkable women live and in person. I’ll make sure to have my dancing shoes ready.
Sistas The Musical from One Village Entertainment is out now on DVD and Digital Download. The show is also in its second year in Manhattan at St. Luke’s Theatre, located at 308 W. 46th Street, NY, NY.