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Marie and Rosetta

Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Great acting, Absorbing, Delightful
84
Critics
81
31 reviews
Members
85
168 reviews
 

Atlantic Theater Company presents the world premiere of George Brant's play about music legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe's collaboration with Marie Knight, which culminated in a career-defining tour.

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A huge influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Jimi Hendrix, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a legend in her own time, bringing fierce guitar playing and swing to gospel music. Tharpe was the queen of ‘race records’ in the '30s and '40s, who performed at churches in the morning and the Cotton Club in the evening. She was a big enough star to fill a baseball stadium for her third wedding, but ended up buried in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia. 'Marie and Rosetta' chronicles her first rehearsal with a young protégée, Marie Knight, as they prepare to embark on a tour that would establish them as one of history's great musical duos.

 

Cast & Creatives (9)



Reviews (199)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
81
Avg Score

70
The New York Times

"Music, more than the rather slender threads of bio-drama, forms the spine and provides the allure in ‘Marie and Rosetta'…Fortunately, there is plenty of music to divert us when the dialogue dawdles. Both Ms. Lewis and Ms. Jones have beautiful voices, and they do blend smoothly...Because the music is roof-raising, I would have preferred to tip the balance more toward songs...‘Marie and Rosetta’ sometimes sags, but when it sings, it really swings." Full Review

90
Theatermania

"A delightful new play…A not-to-be-missed example of what the theater can do with music…’Marie and Rosetta’ smartly incorporates music without falling into the traps that so often accompany contemporary musical theater…The songs come naturally and regularly add to the emotional resonance of the play...An intimate story about the relationship between two women, and the way they lift each other up through music. It's enough to make the theater faithful stand up and shout 'Hallelujah!'" Full Review

75
BroadwayWorld

"A swift and enjoyable bio-drama…Rebecca Naomi Jones and Kecia Lewis are both fine singing actors who are giving excellent performances…While a dramatic twist at the end doesn't quite land, it works as a vehicle to provide information about what happened to the two later in life. If ‘Marie and Rosetta’ is somewhat lacking in storytelling, the excitement of watching Jones and Lewis whole-heartedly present a taste of their artistry is well worth a visit." Full Review

75
Variety

"Playwright George Brant has written a perfunctory script about the first rehearsal of this legendary team, but since the biographical details are so thin, it’s all about the glorious voices…As a story framework, it’s corny as hell, but it works well enough to support the singers and their celestial voices. Lewis is a force of nature, and when she unleashes her powerhouse voice on rockin’ versions of gospel classics the church roof elevates." Full Review

80
Time Out New York

"George Brant’s drama, unsentimentally directed by Neil Pepe, is peppered with evocative detail, and it incorporates its biographical material gracefully...Rosetta’s incipient mentorship of Marie is capably rendered...Lewis and Jones sing superbly…As the play goes on, the dialogue starts to seem more and more like segues between musical numbers, but it’s hard to complain. You don’t have to be religious to know when you’re in the presence of glory." Full Review

65
The Hollywood Reporter

"As theater, 'Marie and Rosetta' makes a great concert…The scenario ends up being little more than an excuse for Lewis and Jones to perform…The two actresses deliver a series of thrilling vocals that threaten to tear the roof off the theater. But for all the excitement both the music and the terrific performances provide, the evening gets bogged down in dialogue filled with expository details that fails to impart any deep insight into the real-life figures." Full Review

60
New York Magazine / Vulture

"The scenes are basically just a delivery system for the music, which is only sufficient because the songs are so ecstatically exciting. On the other hand, songs this good set a high bar, and the play leaves you wishing to have understood more, and believed more, about these women and their times than its jukebox structure permits. Brant seems to write from index cards...Kecia Lewis takes the role of Tharpe by the neck and shakes it for all it’s worth." Full Review

75
New York Theater

"Lewis and Jones bring it all home in song after song…If the conversation between the two women never approaches the excitement of their singing, the playwright is adept at establishing the distinctiveness of their personalities…Late in the play, there is an eye-rolling twist…As shopworn as it is, it doesn’t spoil the service that George Brant has rendered by retrieving these figures for the stage, nor the rousing musical performances that are the heart of ‘Marie and Rosetta.'" Full Review

85
Lighting & Sound America

"Even when 'Marie and Rosetta' seems to be about little more than getting the act together, it makes for a fine 90 minutes, thanks to some salty dialogue and sizzling vocals, courtesy of two magnificently equipped actresses...Neil Pepe, the director, handles these slender dramatic goods with extreme delicacy, extracting two finely shaded performances that nevertheless make room for some galvanic vocals, backed by the excellent guitarist Felicia Collins and pianist Deah Harriott." Full Review

95
Front Row Center

"This is one of those rare occasions when a true story doesn’t ruin a perfectly good play...The only way to improve this production would be to stage it in a dance hall. I was nearly jumping out of my skin wanting to get up and boogie. This show is good for everything that ails you – heart, mind and soul. 'Marie and Rosetta' lift you up to Heaven, and then set you gently back down on earth." Full Review

90
Broadway Blog

"‘Marie and Rosetta’ isn’t the kind of play you criticize the way you do something by Edward Albee. It’s a well-crafted exercise that provides an excellent context in which to learn about and appreciate two exceptional performers who made an indelible impact on popular music...Jones and Lewis couldn’t be bettered; they perfectly capture these women’s sharply different personalities, offering totally believable yet larger-than-life representations." Full Review

95
Talkin' Broadway

"It is unthinkable that Lewis and Jones, both operating at the height of their considerable powers, could possibly be better…It's tough to imagine we'll see better musical performances this season…They work brilliantly together, effortlessly contrasting each other in physical appearance as well as voice…The lesson is not new. But it doesn't need to be when it's executed this well…How can the Atlantic afford repairs eight times a week when Lewis, Jones, Brant, and Pepe keep blowing off the roof?" Full Review

80
CurtainUp

"Brant's story is essentially a framing device for a terrific, concert—a concert vibrant enough to make even non-gospel fans tap their feet and applaud after each number. The music may even make you forgive the playwright's contrived trick ending...Lewis and Jones make this two-hander soar dramatically as well as musically. Both are fine actors and have big belting vocals...By the time the two women actually sing and play together the show really rocks." Full Review

93
TheaterScene.net

"You may not have heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight before, but after 'Marie and Rosetta' you will be convinced of their importance in the development of popular music in the 20th century. Credit goes to Rebecca Naomi Jones and Kecia Lewis for making this a mesmerizing evening of gospel, spirituals and popular song." Full Review

85
Newsday

"In director Neil Pepe’s sly, expert chamber musical, Lewis and Jones don’t just portray the women on what appears to be their first rehearsal...These actors also sing, whisper and wail the wonderful songs — including 'This Train' and 'Down by the Riverside' — and are so convincing at the piano and guitar that it’s hard to believe they are not playing. Fairness demands that credit goes to Felicia Collins and Deah Harriott behind the scrim." Full Review

85
CitiTour

"Even if 'Marie and Rosetta' occasionally gets grounded in clunky exposition, this 90-minute piece soars whenever these ultra-talented ladies get to sing. The 'score' is comprised primarily of real-life gospel standards and, regardless of your religion or belief system, anyone with an appreciation for great music will end up in heaven during these passages...Director Neil Pepe has guided the proceedings with a smooth hand." Full Review

80
WNBC

"A brash and swaggering new play with music from the Atlantic...Stage vet Kecia Lewis is wised-up, earthy and soulful as the flamboyant performer who has both a matronly concern for her new charge and something of a sensual draw to her, as well. Rebecca Naomi Jones, as Marie, is initially timid, but Sister Rosetta draws her out, helping her walk a line between faith and seductiveness." Full Review

75
Woman Around Town

"There’s a sea change. We’re not exactly where or when we thought we were. The idea is good, the transition bumpy, dialogue less secure. 'Marie and Rosetta' is musically entertaining and well written to that point. Both actresses do a fine job, with Rebecca Naomi Jones excelling in the outsized, yet devout role...Director Neil Pepe does an adroit job of giving the women small natural business and of indicating changes in their relationship...Pacing is deft." Full Review

75
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"It emerges as a thin if likable drama that enables us to enjoy the main attractions, the terrific singing by Kecia Lewis as Tharpe and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Knight...The dialogue between the women can get sharp at times...But the singing is the real treat...Directed with feeling by Neil Pepe, it is an impressive tribute to the two singers who contributed so much to the musical world with their creativity, performing and recording." Full Review

75
Broadway & Me

"George Brant's two-hander purports to tell the story of that relationship. I say purports because his plot is thin, and his story employs a lot of poetic license...But none of that matters because what gives this show its heart, and yes, its soul, is the music. There are few things more glorious than a well-sung gospel song and this show has a bunch of them. It also has two superb performances from Rebecca Naomi Jones as Marie and Kecia Lewis as Rosetta." Full Review

80
NY1

"The story of Rosetta and her stage partner Marie is brought to vivid life, but their music is what steals the show...The exposition is rather clunky. But the performances are remarkable...Rosetta was a child prodigy on the gospel circuit and Lewis sings her like the second coming. Rebecca Naomi Jones is equally gifted as the younger Marie...Director Pepe wisely allows the music to carry the day. With this much talent, when these ladies get cooking, it's a religious experience." Full Review

90
Act Three - The Reviews

"A near pitch-perfect, smart, toe-tapping bio-play…I might have given this show 10 out of 10 if the actors actually played the guitar and piano…However, the two actual musicians were superb! In an incredibly surprising and clever twist at the end, we fast forward. Touching, tender, and a complete closure to the trajectory of the story, which brings it all back to the beginning and suddenly every little detail in the beginning now makes sense." Full Review

90
Theater Pizzazz

"It may take place in a funeral parlor, but you won’t find anything more full of life than ‘Marie and Rosetta’…The dialogue is revealing and often very funny…But it’s the music that gives ‘Marie and Rosetta’ wings. These women can sing…Lewis recognizes Rosetta as the dream role it is and she pours her heart into every fiber of the singer’s being. As the more reticent Marie, Jones does less of a star turn, but it’s fun to watch her evolve from hothouse flower into radiant lily of the field." Full Review

80
Epoch Times

"Both actresses have excellent singing voices and make full use of them…The only shortcoming in the work comes with the story itself...While the story provides a nice introduction to who these people were, it never really goes below the surface in examining the life of either. These quibbles aside, 'Marie and Rosetta' offers both a tuneful, entertaining time at the theater and a look at two interesting figures in 20th-century music." Full Review

85
Reflections in the Light

"Brandt is a gifted storyteller and the 90 minutes without intermission are mesmerizing...Brandt includes a satisfying twist in telling the story of how the woman who once was a big enough celebrity to fill a baseball stadium for her third wedding ended up forgotten and buried in an unmarked grave. I felt grateful that Brandt has brought her back to life for us...And the music is heavenly. I felt as though I had attended a worship service." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
85
Avg Score

75
Ambitious, Clever, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Gospel and R&B music light your fire & touch your soul. Bio play w/music. SEE IT when it returns. K Lewis & R Jones were vocally perfect.

Don't see it if like me you don't enjoy shows w/out intermissions. I survived another one, barely. Bittersweet and VERY surprising ending. Well worth it.

85
Absorbing, Clever, Resonant, Historical, Great singing

See it if You are interested in unsung heroines who contributed to music history; you want to enjoy some great southern singing and a slice of history

Don't see it if You don't care for gospel music, aren't interested in her story.

88
Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you love gospel music and powerhouse performances

Don't see it if you dislike gospel music

83
Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You like singing, dancing, life stories

Don't see it if You don't like musicals

96
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great singing, Interesting story, Wonderful songs

See it if you love musicals. See it is you want to learn about a wonderful talent.

Don't see it if you aren't interested in hearing two terrific voices.

85
Delightful, Thought-provoking, Must see, Resonant, Great singing

See it if you enjoy soul music and history

Don't see it if you don't like your stageplay interrupted by musical performances

99
Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Exquisite, Entertaining

See it if Anyone would love this musical , especially if you like history.

Don't see it if If you only like heavy dramas.

95
Absorbing, Delightful, Riveting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You love gospel music, great performances, and a true story of struggle, success, and relationship.

Don't see it if If you dislike the gospel sound of Sister Rosetta!

79
Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Knock-out singing & acting by Jones & Lewis elevate a better than usual bio-drama. Chamber musical nicely staged by Pepe

Don't see it if Expecting to learn more than surface details of Sister Rosetta's life; "Say-What!" ending mars overall experience

46
Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if You like gospel singing cause that is 80% of play. Loud.

Don't see it if You want a good story. This barely tells the bio of Rosetta. Just an excuse for singing. The two women don't even play their own instruments

Also And in real life they did. Musicians are behind the stage.

85
Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if Like good old Gospel Music, two ladies with exceptional voices. Fantastic on the piano, and the guitar. Excellent

Don't see it if Don't care too much for 2 ladies, belting out gospel songs, about their trials, and tribulations.

83
Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if enjoy great performances from two very talented ladies.

Don't see it if you have no interest in gospel music or historical/biographical stories, even so, the fabulous cast makes it worth it.

90
Absorbing, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if You want to be transported to somewhere you've never been. A funeral home in the Deep South with a pair of wonderful Gospel singers.

Don't see it if You don't like Gospel or you sislike shows With a confusing time line.

90
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You have not seen a show that really moves you with singing and a touching story.

Don't see it if Are not a fan of gospel*ish great singing and moving stories.

85
Absorbing, Great acting, Great singing

See it if you want to see two great performers in an intimate space. The concept and characters are engaging, and the performances are powerful.

Don't see it if you need more going on. It's a simple set, and in essence it's just two women speaking and singing for the entirety of the show.

90
Funny, Great acting, Riveting, Great writing, Great singing

See it if You enjoy character-driven stories and appreciate women's friendship and music. You are a music fan (it's gorgeous!)

Don't see it if You don't enjoy semi-musical formats. The songs don't drive action (as in traditional musicals) but serve to build the women's relationship.

85
Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you like gospel singing and shows based on true stories-hurry closes 10/16

Don't see it if you don't like gospel

84
Absorbing, Delightful, Great singing

See it if you like to listen to powerful voices and are touched by the history of black performers

Don't see it if you don't like gospel singing or themes

Also The singing was great - found myself smiling the whole time. The stagi... Read more Read less

88
Delightful, Resonant, Moving, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you like a biographical story with 2 amazing voices singing rousing gospel & R&B music even if the dialogue is sometimes thin

Don't see it if you don't like plays with abrupt ends, where 3 years are summarized in final dialogue; or offended by discussions of what is Christian music

77
Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you love music well done. The story line is thin but interesting in its reflection of an era and its prejudice. The performers are wonderful

Don't see it if you have no interest in music or if you need action to entertain you

100
Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Profound, Great singing

See it if Absolute masterpiece. One of the greatest pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Powerful, entertaining, a beautiful production. Go see it!

Don't see it if You don't like theatre that highlights the black experience in music and in America.

75
Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining, 2 fine performances hindered by limited script/story

See it if you love gospel or the blues, as well as individual performances and can disregard a cliched script

Don't see it if you value script over all....2 excellent singing performances that a weak script does not support.

90
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You like to musicals with a little bit of gospel. You like a historical story told by ones memory in a unique way

Don't see it if If you dont like musicals or gospel or history

94
Absorbing, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Love gospel, great singing and music.

Don't see it if You hate gospel. Don't like all music, little dialogue.

96
Funny, Exquisite, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging

See it if You enjoy exulting performances with pathos.

Don't see it if You hate gospel music