Review: Jubilee offers noteworthy performances

Jubilee  takes a look at the early years of the Fisk Jubilee Singers as they toured throughout the United States and internationally. But its not quite a simple story because Jubilee peels back the layers of the singers’ origin and unmasked the struggles they endured in an America, not quite ready to level the playing field along racial lines.

(L to R) Simone Paulwell (America Robinson), V. Savoy McIlwain (Thomas Rutling), Sean-Maurice Lynch (Frederick Loudin), Jaysen Wright (Edmund Watkins), Lisa Arrindell (Ella Sheppard) and Greg Watkins (Benjamin Holmes) (Photo:Margot Schulman)

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, were created not too longer shortly after the Civil War and as a new choir they set up  raising funds for Fisk University to make higher education available to African Americans.

Written and directed by Tazewell Thompson with musical arrangements and direction by Dianne Adams McDowell, the musical is filled with hymns and spIrituals, some long forgotten, but given new life in this musical tour de force. Songs like “Over My Head,” Didn’t My Lord Deliver,’ “Dem Bones,” may prove nostalgic for some and new to others.

Actress and singer Aundi Marie Moore as Maggie Porter is superb and her soaring  voice and her diva antics fall right in line with the historical Porter who was known as the diva” of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.  Moore gets it right.

L to R) Lisa Arrindell (Ella Sheppard), Jaysen Wright (Edmund Watkins), Katherine Alexis Thomas (Minnie Tate), Zonya Love (Georgia Gordon), Greg Watkins (Benjamin Holmes) and Shaleah Adkisson (Mabel Lewis). (Photo: Margot Schulman)

Jubilee, does an job of sharing the history of the Fisk university and the choir and also keeping the audience fully engaged.  the finale which recalls the fates of each singer is poignant and thought provoking and its fantastic that Jubilee chose to tell it.

Jubilee plays through June 9, 2019, presented by the Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street, SW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call (202) 488-3300 or go online.


Sarah Hearn
the authorSarah Hearn
Sarah Hearn is Editor-in-Chief of, founded in 2011. The site was recently named among Feedspot's Top Gospel and Christian Music Websites.  Sarah is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Gospel Music Association.
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