Born in 1896 into abject poverty, Ethel Waters became a Vaudeville success and a recording sensation while crossing racial barriers to emerge as a Broadway and Hollywood star. However, a reputation for being difficult and her own distrust of those who might employ her or love her-largely a response to the unspeakable horrors of Jim Crow America-caused her to lose everything and become a recluse, until she found new strength from a most unlikely source. The music spans the decades of Waters's career from the uplifting gospel spirituals of her youth to the blues and jazz of her 1920s Cotton Club days; plus "Frankie and Johnny;" the 1933 Rudy Vallee/Hoagy Carmichael classic "Old Man Harlem;" and Fats Waller's "Cabin in the Sky," sung by Waters in the hit 1940s Broadway musical of the same name. This show is a powerful, heartbreaking, and uplifting account of the legendary Ethel Waters, who overcame a spirit-breaking childhood and racial injustice to become a legendary jazz and blues singer, Broadway pioneer, and Oscar-nominated actress.
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