The Godmother of ROCK’N’ROLL

Review of Shout Sister Shout! at Seattle Rep.

Written by Franklin High School student, Kiet Duong.

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The blaring colorful lights amplified the room. Loud gospel music playing. The sound of laughter and clapping filled the room. Many people may think this is a musical. These were the characteristics of Shout Sister Shout!, an engaging play that shows how Sister Rosetta Tharpe has perseverance because she overcame hard times, which have shaped her into a better person. If you did not know, Sister Rosetta is the godmother of rock’n’roll. Born and raised in Arkansas, she grew up playing instruments and singing Gospel music in a church. The superstar then inspired the likes of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and more. With so much explosive energy on stage, it was like you were a part of the play. Overall, the play was a pleasant experience, leaving me feeling delighted and connected at the end. From the small details of moving props, to the beautiful costume, and the lovely wedding at the end. The character development, plot, and interactive parts were very enjoyable from the start to the end.

Shout Sister Shout! had many moments, including the death of Marie’s kids to Sister Rosetta’s wedding, where the audience got to play along and interact with the show in many ways. Some acts were very funny and some were serious. One moment in the play where she performs in the Cotton Club and had us clapping along with one of her catchy songs such as “Down by the Riverside” and “The Train”, the feeling I got from that was like being in a Gospel, rock concert. The play was so realistic, I could feel the happiness in the air. With the audience clapping to “Down by the Riverside” and shouting praises, it felt like being in a church on a Sunday morning. Another scene that had an impact was when Sister Rosetta got a letter from her first husband demanding her to go back to him. She replied with a funny response and the audience bursted out laughing with her response. The feeling of laughter filled the room, being able to laugh can release your stress you are having, which brightens the whole mood from the scene before and prepares us for the next scene. This shows the play can have some light and dark parts to it leaving the audience with discussion questions.

In addition, the play shows how Sister Rosetta had to face many challenges in her life. Some were her music career, from singing in churches to singing on the stage of Cotton Club, her relationship with her mother, her coming out with her sexuality as a queer to the world, and more. This is shown when she came out and admitted she only loved Marie Knight out of all her relationships. Sister Rosetta is powerful because she doesn’t fear of not being accepted. The play shows some representation of the LGBTQ community with Sister Rosetta using music as a way to find herself. She uses music as an outlet to cope with her problems. This play brings awareness to the LGBTQ community is something that stuck with me. This is important because we need to learn to not judge people for anything. Learning to accept others for who they are shows that you have empathy. This play helped me learn to put myself in other people’s shoes and respect their decision in life. Even in our society today, acceptance and being open to our sexuality is very rare. This is because we fear getting judged. In the future, I hope I can change all of that and help better the world.

Ultimately, Shout Sister Shout! was an appealing play where you got to experience a concert like theme. From the beautiful guitar stage to cheerful music. The play was also very interactive with the audience. It brought up so many themes about the character development of Sister Rosetta in the story. With character developments comes a great plot. The play was very impactful because it taught me to have empathy and be accepting of others. The play is incredible and I recommend you come see it.

Lead photo credit: The cast of Shout Sister Shout!. Photo by Bronwen Houck.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism 101 workshop at Franklin High School in Ms. Geffner's 11th grade Language Arts classes, taught by Press Corps teaching artist Jasmine Mahmoud.

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