Theater review: His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Supposedly no two people are alike – so why do so many biographical stage plays share DNA? Practically the same genetic code underwrites shows about the lives of famous musical entertainers, especially when written for three actors or less. The signature compositions frame a series of anecdotes that begin with the subjects' humble upbringing and find a crescendo at the height of their popularity – which usually marks the intermission and anticipates an inevitable decline due to personality flaws and/or old age.

Theatre in the Square's His Eye Is on the Sparrow, a portrait of trailblazing jazz singer Ethel Waters, touches all the bases of the bioplay, from name-dropping famous fans to keeping track of significant paydays. Waters goes from a $10-a-week vaudevillian to a $1,000-a-week celebrity chanteuse, beloved by audiences of all races. Bernardine Mitchell unquestionably has the soaring vocal prowess and the stage presence for the part, but His Eye Is on the Sparrow frequently stays earthbound during its nonmusical moments.

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