February 3, 2013 in Features

Spotlight: One-man show will pay tribute to activist Robeson

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Civic rights activist Paul Robeson.
(Full-size photo)

A one-man show coming to Spokane on Wednesday will tell the story of legendary performer and African-American civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

Robeson will be portrayed by Nigerian-born playwright and actor Tayo Aluko.

Robeson was born in Princeton, N.J. in 1898 and played football at Rutgers University, where he was valedictorian. He attended Columbia University Law School while playing two seasons, in 1921 and ‘22, in the National Football League.

As a student at Columbia, he participated in school plays, which led to a career as an entertainer. He performed “Othello” in London – and was the first black man to play the role in a century, according to the Guardian newspaper. He then became an international film star with performances in “Show Boat,” “Sanders of the River” and “The Emperor Jones.” His rendition of “Show Boat’s” signature tune, “Ol’ Man River,” is considered the benchmark.

His political leanings brought him much trouble, as he ran afoul of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. Baseball legend Jackie Robinson famously testified against him. Ultimately, he lost his U.S. passport, which damaged his opportunities for travel and employment. He died in 1976.

Aluko not only stars in the play, he wrote it as well. He has performed it around the U.S. and in Europe.

The show will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague Ave. Tickets are $12 to $22 and are available through TicketsWest, (800) 325-SEAT or online at www.ticketswest.com.

CdA has the blues

The Coeur d’Alene Blues Festival will return for a fourth year in April, with a slew of local and regional favorites and one certifiable blues legend – Charlie Musselwhite.

The two-day festival April 5 and 6 will be at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and will kick off with a blues cruise – on two boats, hooked together – that Friday night. One boat will feature Bakin’ Phat, the other Anita Royce & The High Rollers.

Musselwhite burst on the music scene in the 1960s, and in 1966 released the landmark record, “ Stand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s Southside Band.” The blues harmonica player isn’t just resting on his laurels these days. Just this past week he released an album with Ben Harper. He’ll perform at 10 p.m. April 6.

Regional stars will take the stage earlier in the day. At 8:30 p.m. the spotlight will shine on vocalist Duffy Bishop, who has a Grammy nomination and a number of regional blues awards to her credit. At 7 p.m. Portland-based Lloyd Jones will perform. Jones, a frequent winner of the Cascade Blues Society awards, has been a favorite, along with his band, The Struggle, up and down Oregon’s Willamette Valley for years.

Rounding out the Saturday lineup is up-and-comer Ty Curtis, another frequent award winner from the Cascade Blues Society. His band placed ninth in the 2009 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn.

Tickets are on sale now. Cost for the festival and cruise is $37. It’s $25 for the festival only and $15 for the cruise. Tickets are available through Ticketfly – www.ticketfly.com or (877) 4-FLY-TIX – and the Coeur d’Alene Resort, cdaresort.com or by calling (208) 765-4000, ext. 21.

Women rock

It looks like Spokane is getting a good lineup of women singers coming to town in the next few months.

First up we have Carrie Underwood. The “American Idol” winner will bring her high-energy country act to the Spokane Arena on Feb. 21. On April 28, the Bing will host The Cowboy Junkies, fronted by Margo Timmins, as they recreate their excellent 1988 album “The Trinity Sessions.”

Then on June 29, the Spokane Arena will welcome Fleetwood Mac to town. Now, I know Fleetwood Mac is not a “girl group,” but c’mon. This is Stevie Nicks we’re talking about.

Another show, featuring a co-headliner bill, has recently been announced. Shawn Colvin (“Sunny Came Home”) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (“I Feel Lucky”) will perform at the Bing on April 20. The two women, both longtime friends as well as noted singer-songwriters, will perform as a duo.

Carpenter has recorded 12 albums. She’s won five Grammy Awards, two Country Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards and was inducted this past fall into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Colvin has three Grammy Awards over a career that spans 10 albums. She came to the attention of Columbia Records after singing backing vocals on Suzanne Vega’s hit “Luka.” Last year, she released “All Fall Down,” on which she collaborated with Alison Krauss, Jakob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Bill Frisell.

Tickets to all these shows are on sale through TicketsWest.


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