Chris Mueller

"Mahalia: A Gospel Musical" stars Bernardine Mitchell as Mahalia

Sacramento Live: 'Mahalia,' 'Enron' and jazz

Published: Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 10TICKET

The current lively production of "Mahalia: A Gospel Musical" at the Guild Theater has just four performances left. Based on the life of the woman known as the queen of gospel, Mahalia Jackson, Tom Stolz's musical biodrama leans heavily on the powerfully performed musical part of the equation.

With Atlanta-based actress Bernardine Mitchell portraying Jackson and Renée Clark acting as the production's music director and playing pianist Mildred Falls (Jackson's longtime accompanist), the production has easy, engaging charm. Mitchell and Clark have performed the roles together around the country, and their onstage chemistry and timing support their characters' friendship.

Mitchell is a dynamic vocalist who rumbles down into the distinctive gritty timbre that Jackson used so effectively to bring the life and spirituality of African American gospel singing to the world in the '40s and '50s.

The two women are supported by the versatile locally based actor Anthony D'Juan, who plays several male roles including composer Thomas A. Dorsey (often called the father of gospel music) and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a good friend of Jackson. Keyboardist Willis Hickerson, who has his own impressive résumé, plays Blind Francis, an organist who also worked with Jackson.

Director Elisabeth Nunziato nimbly stages the musical as the short, pointed scenes skip through the narrative of Jackson's life. The songs and their electric performances are the key here, with classics such as "How I Got Over," "Elijah Rock," "I've Been 'Buked," and "Didn't It Rain" all stoking the receptive audience. Jason Kuykendall created the video projections that helpfully convey the sense of place and time throughout the production.

The last shows are 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. At the Guild Theater, 2828 35th St., Sacramento. Tickets are $25 to $58, with youth and senior discounts. For information call (916) 520-0827 or go to www.

The smartest guys in the room?

Those Enron guys thought they were, and we all how that worked out. British playwright Lucy Prebble has created a satiric fantasia simply called "Enron," which illuminates the story from within, personalizing the first financial crisis of the millennium.

Gary S. Martinez as Ken Lay, Jonathan Rhys Williams as Jeffrey Skilling and Aaron Wilton as Andy Fastow play the main smart guys, with Shannon Mahoney as a female muse. Stephanie Gularte directs and Gregg Coffin has written original music.

In previews 8 p.m. today, opens Saturday. Continuing 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 21. Capital Stage, 2215 J St., Sacramento. Tickets are $16-$18 for previews, $38 for opening night (Saturday), $18-$32 regular. For information call (916) 995-5464 or go to

Guitar plus 2

The soulfulness typically associated with a jazz guitar and organ trio seems at odds with the European chill of the stately ECM label. Veteran guitarist John Abercrombie bridges the gap Saturday with two shows at the Scott-Skillman Recital Hall at Three Stages. Abercrombie's trio includes Gary Versace on organ and Adam Nussbaum on drums.

The shows are 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $29-$39 with student tickets priced at $12. Available at or call (916) 608-6888. Three Stages is on the west side of the Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.

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