Sweet Mama String Bean: A Celebration of Blues Woman Ethel Waters
Fremont Centre Theatre
The late singer Ethel Waters was the blues. If Bessie Smith was the Empress of the Blues then Waters was the Architect of the Blues. Her life story resembles a blues song—grimy, sad and heartbreaking. Actress ValLimar brings Waters back from the grave. She’s a tough-talking; no nonsense woman who tells it like it is and damn the consequences. Actress ValLimar Jansen obviously did her homework in preparing for this role. Accompanied by her husband Frank Jansen on piano, ValLimar takes the audience on a journey of self-reflection and survival.
Each song signifies where Waters, who died at age 80 from heart disease, was at during her life. She married three times but had no children. What she had was a medley of well known hits, “My Handy Man,” “Am I Blue?” and “Stormy Weather.” She sang SW long before the late Lena Horne made it a staple. Waters was personable and strong-willed. The actress does a remarkable job tapping into Waters’ spirit and belting out memorable song after memorable song. As Ethel, she proud fully mentions that she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the 1950 film “Pinky.” She talks lovingly about her grandmother, Sally Anderson and with a heavy heart about her real mother Louise Sanderson, whom she called Momweez. She called Sally mom. Momweez was a victim of rape at age 12 by John Waters and Waters was the result. It’s no wonder why her mother wasn’t around to raise her talented daughter. Waters was nicknamed “Sweet Mama Stringbean” and made her first appearance at Lincoln Theater in Baltimore, Maryland.
ValLimar is tremendously wonderful singer and a great actress. She brings out Waters’ joys and sorrows, displays her proud moments and her low spots. It’s as if Waters looked down and said, “Go ‘head chile.” This is a beautiful testament to a superbly talented woman who didn’t receive enough accolades and praise when she was living. Now, she will get what she deserves—being remembered as gifted artist.
Sweet Mama String Bean: A Celebration of Blues Woman Ethel Waters runs December 16 – 19, 31, Jan 1, 2 & 8 Thursdays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 p.m. at the Fremont Centre Theatre located at 1000 Fremont Avenue in Pasadena. For ticket information call (866) 811-4111or visit www.FremontCentreTheatre.com . New Years’ Eve dinner and music provided on the patio.