Black Pearl Sings by Frank Higgins makes its world premiere at Stages Repertory Theatre this week. The story follows Susannah, an ambitious song collector for the Library of Congress in the 1930s. Susannah finds Pearl, a descendant of slaves, in a Texas prison. Impressed with Pearl’s vast knowledge of otherwise forgotten folk songs, Susannah views Pearl as a ticket to the big time. As the researcher discovering such a treasure trove of music, Susannah will get famous (and rich). But Pearl has a few tricks up her sleeve. She’s willing to “trade” her songs, using them as currency to benefit her family. The two women square off, each needing the other to accomplish her goals.
“There’s great drama in the way those two strong-willed women use music to influence each other and pursue their separate goals, but also great humor and an irresistible musical electricity,” says Stages Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin. “We’re thrilled at the opportunity to present the world premiere of this incredible play that not only reveals the authentic origins of some of our most beloved music but also raises questions about how cultural traditions can be manipulated and exploited.” Described as “powerful, honest and wryly funny," Black Pearl Sings is loosely based on the true story of folk/blues musician Leadbelly and musicologist John Lomax, (that John Lomax is the great-grandfather of Houston Press Music Editor John Nova Lomax.)
The official opening night is Friday, but you can catch a preview tonight and tomorrow. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information and tickets, call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com. $31 to $36. -- Olivia Flores Alvarez