Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe gets down with Sistas in the Name of Soul.
By Kay Kipling
When the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was forced to reconsider its 2009 season plans (including finding a new venue) due to tough economic times, one wondered if the company could survive and if so, in what form. Right now, at least, WBTT is hanging in there with performances at Art Center Sarasota, an intimate space that seems just about right for the current production, a musical called Sistas in the Name of Soul.
Sistas is part of WBTT’s trilogy of music from the 1970s (look for crooners and duets later this season), although if you want to be technical, a few of the songs in this revue date from the late 1960s. But that’s understandable; if you were putting together a revue of soul music performed by females, how could you leave out Aretha Franklin’s Respect?
The four performers in Sistas (Tsadok Porter, Whitney Reshard, Nisi Weaver and Jnana Wilson) have all appeared in WBTT shows before, and they seem comfortable, for the most part, with the up-close environs of Art Center, singing and shimmying on a small black platform and playing to the audience in the round. Often one singer takes the mike while the others do backup, but each performer gets a chance to really shine solo in the spotlight, too.
And the audience responds by singing and moving along (there are also brief bits where the cast wanders over to selected audience members and brings them into the action). The songs range from lively booty shakers (I’m So Excited, Proud Mary) to feeling ballads (Neither One of Us, Midnight Train to Georgia). There’s very little spoken word here, which is fine in that we probably don’t need much history or background regarding these popular songs and the women who sang them; but some more verbal interaction among the “sistas” from time to time would be welcome.
That said, it’s really all about the music, and with more than 30 songs in the course of the evening (two hours with intermission), Sistas delivers that. If you’re not ready to stand up and sing along by the closing number (Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, of course), you probably should have your pulse checked.
Sistas in the Name of Soul continues at Art Center Sarasota for selected dates through Feb. 22; for tickets go to srqboxoffice.com.