Family might drive you crazy. It might be something you’ve walked away from. It might be something you can’t live without.
That’s exactly the kind of story on display at the Ensemble Theatre in Sistas: The Musical, the story of five women who come together following the death of the family matriarch.
As these four black women and one white woman sift through their memories looking for the perfect song to sing at a memorial for their lost mother and grandmother, they encounter new ways of seeing each other—and themselves.
“I love how Dr. Simone, my character, really takes care of her family,” says actress Regina Hearne. “She’s the oldest sister, and I love how she works so hard to keep this family’s musical traditions alive. She believes so much that music is what they do and how it sustains them, carries them through their lives.”
Hearne calls the show “a beautiful melting pot,” of generations and races. And she loves the ways popular music from the 1940s to the present day is woven into the storyline as these women unpack the baggage of their various lives.
“I call it woman-eese,” says director and choreographer Patdro Harris jokingly, about the way the women interact with each other. “This is how women are when all the guys aren’t around to see them.”
While Harris insists the show is for everyone, and offers comedy and poignancy in equal measure, for him, the crux of the piece is about conversation.
“We have to stay in the room for a conversation to happen,” he says. “We all have secrets. We all have regrets. We all make mistakes and we need to share those things because they all help the next generation."
Harris says Sistas, which takes place in an attic of the deceased matriarch’s home, is an intimate show. The five-member, all-female cast wrestles with what family means, what growing up is and how they can relate to and console each other in their grief. He praises Chika Caba Ma’atunde’s musical direction, calling the arrangements of popular songs an amazing addition that gives depth to the story. And he loves how this very female story transcends gender to be something that men and women can relate to.
“It’s like musical therapy,” he laughs.
Hearne would agree. Her favorite moment in the show, she says, is the scene before the song “Stormy Weather.” Her character has just had a disagreement with her daughter, Tamika.
“She’s just pouring love into her daughter, trying to get her to understand about how to deal with men and women, and their pain. It’s Simone in one of her most vulnerable places.”
Harris and Hearne agree that the musical numbers will be familiar to audiences, with hits by Billie Holiday, Beyoncé, the Supremes, and Mahalia Jackson, among others. Harris also notes he was especially taken with how the script uses the songs to drive the stories.
“People hear these songs and it immediately takes them back to their own memories,” he says. “And this is really a family show. It’s the kind of show you want to bring people to, so you can share those experiences, and keep those conversations going.”
June 28–July 29. Tickets from $36. Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main St. 713-520-0055. More info and tickets at ensemblehouston.com.