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October 20, 2018 – January 27, 2019



The cast


Music is the medium of expression, especially in the African American community where female artists expressed their feelings of pain, joy, and freedom through soul, jazz, gospel, blues, R&B, and rap. Although over the years Black women were underrepresented, they still rose throughout their struggles to make a definitive blueprint and contribution in the music industry.


Playwright and Director Daryl Brooks, who in 2015 wrote the award-winning hit “Men of Soul,” now has another hit with “Women of Soul,” celebrating women with a tribute to Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. In the 60s stemming from southern roots and singing in her church choir, Aretha followed her path by reinventing herself and gaining prominence during the civil rights movement. She had five number one hits and a Grammy. In 1967 and 1968, Franklin reached commercial success, recording more than a dozen million-selling singles, and she was the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Along with Franklin, Black Ensemble Theater brought to the stage some of the great women of soul and took us back in time to where it all began in their musical careers. The ladies delivered an outstanding performance of singing and dancing, and they unearthed how formidable it was for women to be in an industry dominated by men.


Brooks pays homage to some trailblazing women such as Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Betty Wright, Jill Scott, Denise Williams, Janis Joplin, Rihanna, Beyonce, Natalie Cole, Tina Marie, Mary J., Donna Summers, Whitney Houston, Adele, Martha Wash, Etta James, Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, and Janet Jackson. Their music has become the soundtrack of our lives.


The Black Ensemble cast of women did a fantastic job embodying these legends’ spirit and brought their struggles, triumphs, and success stories to life.


Brooks’ ability to orchestrate an evening of celebration mixed in with a historical background of the lives of these women shows that he, as a writer and director, knows how to bring life into any soul needing a good night of theater.


There was a mixture of gospel, rock, disco, blues and R&B with great songs like “Midnight Train To Georgia,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Cry Baby,” “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” and “Rolling In The Deep!”


Brooks helped us to remember why these women’s music became the soundtrack of our lives and their music will be forever embedded in our hearts.


The powerful voice of Cynthia F. Carter along with Robin DaSilva and seasoned Black Ensemble actor Rhonda Preston mixed in well with new starlets Collen Perry, Jayla Williams Craig, and Hannah Efsits.  It was also nice to see some old faces such as Jessica Beals, Ariel Williams and Jerica Exum.  All of these women brought together a night of sisterhood songbirds that makes “Women of Soul with a Tribute to Aretha Franklin” a must-see event.


Brenda and Rick McCain

Let’s Play “Highly Recommends” that you check this musical out!


The cast includes:

Cynthia Carter

Robin DaSilva

Jerica Exum

Hannah Efsits

Dwight Neal

Colleen Perry

Rhonda Preston

Jessica Seals

Aerial Williams 

Jayla Williams-Craig



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