The off-Broadway gospel stage musical Mama I Want To Sing! comes to the big screen this fall. The majority of the film has been made but filming will continue throughout Harlem during the month of May.
The all star cast includes Ciara, Lynn Whitfield, Billy Zane, Hill Harper, Kim Porter, Ben Vereen, Patti LaBelle, Kevin Phillips, Juanita Bynum, Marvin Winans and Vy Higginsen (as herself). The film was written and produced by Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro.
The film is based on the life story of Doris Troy, a preacherâ€™s daughter who sang in a church choir before being discovered by James Brown. Doris Troy’s niece, Knoelle, who has played the star role in the off-Broadway production, makes her film debut in the movie.
In 1982 Higginsen and Wydro invested their life savings in opening Mama I Want to Sing! in East Harlem at The Heckscher Theatre. The theatre had been closed for fifteen years. As the chains were lifted off the door, puffs of dust and dirt greeted Higginsen and Wydro in the abandoned 632-seat theater.
Higginsen had a vision for the dusky, dimly-lit stage. She envisioned the theater filled with senior citizens, church groups, school children, and hard-working black mothers and fathers who had spiritual values and loved soul-stirring music.
Mama, I Want to Sing opened March 23, 1983 without much fanfare and on a shoestring operational, promotional, and publicity budget. Word-of-mouth spread quickly through the black community as well as through the theatrical and traditional musical circles. Mama, I Want to Sing presented the passion, spontaneity and emotional uplift of the black church experience along with a universal message for anyone with a dream.
Higginsen’s vision came true, and Mama, I Want to Sing became the longest running off-Broadway musical in American history. After thousands of permormances in New York, the show moved on toÂ Europe and Japan.
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