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"Trav’lin: The 1930’s Harlem Musical " by Gary Holmes, featuring the music of C.J. Johnson, at the Ensemble Theatre of Houston in 2014. Pictured: Aisha Ussery, Regina Hearne, and An'Gelle Sylvester.

The Ensemble Theatre Announces 2016–17 Season

The season will feature musicals celebrating the music of Mahalia Jackson and Nina Simone.

HOUSTON: The Ensemble Theatre has announced its 2016–17 season, featuring a world premiere, a holiday play, and two musicals.

“This season lineup is a prism of perspectives on life: the way we respond to the unanticipated, recover from the unfortunate, and navigate unusual or unfamiliar things that help us grow as people,” said artistic director Eileen J. Morris in a statement. “We are also paying homage to two women who paved the way for how we share our music.”

The season will start with Celeste Bedford Walker’s Sassy Mamas (Sept. 22–Oct. 16), about three women, “cougars,” who confidently pursue young men. Morris will direct.

For the holiday season will be The First Noel (Nov. 17–Dec. 30), with book, music, and lyrics by Lelund Durond Thompson and Michael Webb. This musical, about three generations of a family affected by the tragic loss of a loved one during Christmastime, with be music-directed by Carlton Leake, with choreography and direction by Patdro Harris.

Following will be Tom Stolz’s Mahalia (Jan. 26–Feb. 26, 2017), about the life and career of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Shirley Marks Whitmore will direct.

Next up will be The Nacirema Society (March 23–April 16, 2017) by Pearl Cleage, about the induction of six elegant African Americans into the Nacirema Society of Montgomery, Ala. Morris will direct.

The season will continue with the world premiere of Melda Beaty’s Front Porch Society (May 11–June 4, 2017), about an elderly woman in Marks, Miss., grieving the tragic loss of her son on the eve of Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Morris will direct.

The season will conclude with Simply Simone (June 29–July 30, 2017) by Robert Neblett and David Grapes, about the life of Nina Simone from her beginnings as a child prodigy to becoming a jazz superstar, civil rights activist, and political exile. Vince diMura will provide musical arrangement and Leake will provide musical direction. Harris will direct and choreograph.

The Ensemble Theatre, founded in 1976, produces works portraying the African-American experience.

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