E. Faye Butler reigns again!

July 1, 1993

E. Faye Butler reigns again!

By Dorothy Paige-Turner

E. Faye Butler reigns again!

By Dorothy Paige-Turner

Vocalist and Performer

I had an opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. recently and see my friend in a very compelling musical drama entitled The Gospel According to Fishman at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. The music, book and lyrics were written and conceived by Richard Oberacker and Michael Lazar and brilliantly directed by Eric Schaeffer.

“1963. A kid from Brooklyn. A bus to Birmingham. One woman’s voice will change his life. Forever.” The “kid” is Alan Fishman; the woman is Nehi Taylor—played with brilliance by Tally Sessions and E. Faye Butler, respectively. A gospel choir and other well-acted characters conclude the cast.

In September 1963, desegregation, bus boycotts, sit-ins, kneel-ins, freedom rides and peace protests took a back seat to a violent act that devastated blacks and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. The Ku Klux Klan targeted the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a center of life for the black community in one of the South’s most severely segregated cities, Birmingham, Ala.

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On Youth Sunday, a bomb, planted outside the church window, killed four young girls and injured 21 other children.

Alan Fishman, a young Jewish “kid” who is a very gifted songwriter, tours and writes gospel music for Nehi Taylor, a well-known and established black singer. At the peak of the tour, after he was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show, the tragedy in Birmingham occurs. Nehi knows that her loyalty is to go to Alabama and work for the cause; Fishman wants to go back to New York and further his career by having Nehi and the choir perform on television. Therein lies the conflict and the torment. It is resolved eventually by Fishman “finding his own voice” and Nehi continuing to use her “voice” by staying in the South and singing gospel music to raise funds for the Civil Rights Movement.

The original music for the drama is excellent. It develops the script and allows the storyline to flow with very good results. Here is what the critics from the Washington Post and area newspapers are saying about The Gospel according to Fishman and Butler’s performance:

“The show’s numbers—ranging from swinging to hard-driving to bluesy—have a roaring vitality with Butler in charge!”

“The performances are as good as anyone could want. Butler commands the stage every second she is before the audience.”

“Butler oozes stage presence and brings the other singers to such heights that one checks the rafters to make sure collapse is not imminent!”

“I may never have seen a singer more committed to the words coming out of her mouth than E. Faye Butler. She doesn’t seem to be spitting out song lyrics so much as blood and muscle and fragments of bone!”

The Gospel According to Fishman runs through Feb. 24, 2002 at the Signature Theatre and is well on its way to the “Great White Way.” This production is the first phase of preparing the show for tour and an eventual Broadway run.

In other news regarding E. Faye Butler, she will be in a production at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. entitled Polk County, an adaptation of a Zora Neale Hurston novel, opening April 2 and running through May 12, 2002. If you’re in the area, check it out.

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