Mahalia at Hattiloo 

Hattiloo director Mark Allan Davis was unsure. The music was strong. Sonically, it would be difficult to go wrong with a musical built around the life of gospel giant Mahalia Jackson. The singer's life story, particularly where it intersects the life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., might provide enough fodder for a dozen plays. But something about the script for the frequently revived gospel musical Mahalia left Davis unsatisfied.

"It reminded me of a travelogue," he says. "We went here and did this, then we went here and did that," he says monotonously. "I couldn't find the action." As it happens, Davis had been hired to do just that. After producing several iterations of the popular musical, it was time to reinvent it from the ground up.

click to enlarge Mahalia
  • Mahalia

"Ekundayo [Bandele] told me he wanted dancers," Davis says, recalling a conversation with Hattiloo's founder and executive producer. "He mentioned having recently seen Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" and wanted the spirit of the music expressed in movement. "That made it easier once I started rehearsals."

"The actor playing Martin Luther King Jr. is also a great dancer and took things through the roof," Davis says, describing Ailey-inspired choreography created for one of King's best-known speeches. "I have the actors around him basically holding him, lifting him. He falls back on them while he's doing this whole speech," Davis says.

The music for Hattiloo's Mahalia revival is performed live.

"Theresa Willis is extraordinary as Jackson," Davis says.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

The Latest

Intermission Impossible

Tony Isbell: Discovering The Humans

News Blog

Group Hopes to De-Criminalize Poverty

Hungry Memphis

Best Bets: Lobster Stew at Flying Fish

Art Feature

Horn Island: The Last Show

News Blog

Attorneys General Plan to Curb Robocalls

The Rant

The Buck Stops ... Where?

We Saw You

Grandma’s Heavenly Meatball Eating Contest and More

Film Features

Good Boys

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Davis

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation