Home » ‘Mama, I Want to Sing!’ creator Vy Higginsen on revival, legacy of the show: ‘We need this story now more than ever’

‘Mama, I Want to Sing!’ creator Vy Higginsen on revival, legacy of the show: ‘We need this story now more than ever’

by The Grio

“Mama, I Want To Sing!” is back! The musical co-written by Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro has returned to Harlem for a special limited engagement, currently running at El Museo’s El Teatro. TheGrio caught up with Vy Higginsen ahead of the show’s opening on Feb. 26, breaking down the show’s history, the legacy of Black American theater and what she hopes for this new limited engagement of the musical.

Based on Higginsen’s sister Doris Troy, the popular musical chronicles Doris Winter, a singer raised in the church who becomes an R&B superstar. Originally opening in 1983, the show stands as the longest-running Black off-Broadway musical in “the history of the American theater,” running for a whopping 2,800 performances at the Heckscher Theater in Harlem. The production returned to Harlem’s Dempsey Theatre in 2011.

The show’s success grew even further than New York City, traveling all over the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Japan, featuring stars such as Chaka Khan, Cece Winans, Shirley Caesar, and Stephanie Mills in the cast. The musical has led to two sequels, “Mama, I Want to Sing, Part II” and “Mama III: Born to Sing!,” and a musical movie adaptation starring Ciara, Lynn Whitfield, Patti LaBelle and Ben Vereen.

“The question that is often asked is, ‘Did you know that this was going to happen,’” Higginsen told us when speaking of the success and legacy of her show. “In this case, the fantasy matched the reality. All we wanted to do was to tell it the way we saw it. I got a lot of no’s in the beginning … I needed to show the whole picture of the Black musical experience.”

“It’s a piece of Black American theater history,” she continued. “There is no doubt about it. I feel that this was a very necessary story, a musical story and a healing story. This is a story about family, about faith, about love and about music. And when you are telling that…

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