‘Fannie’ takes Goodman audiences on musical celebration of civil rights activist
Loop North News

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(Above) E. Faye Butler stars in Fannie, The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, at Goodman Theatre through November 21. Photos by Liz Lauren. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

In her portrayal of voting activist and civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, E. Faye Butler speaks directly to the audience and tells it like it is. She speaks the truth, even though people don’t want to hear it.

2-Nov-21 – Fannie, also known as Fannie, The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, opened to an appreciative audience and the addition of five performances of this powerful, dramatic, and inspiring play.

Written by Cheryl L. West – adapted from her original play, Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It! – this immersive show toured Chicago parks in September/October 2020 and has now been extended at the Goodman Theatre through November 21.

Starring the dynamic E. Faye Butler as American civil rights freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, Fannie has been hailed in theaters across the country. No one else could have played Fannie with as much grace and strength as Butler.

Butler takes on the role of a woman known for her political activism and continuous efforts for civil and voting rights in Mississippi. Incredibly, Hamer was 44 years old when she discovered she had the right to vote. It took her three attempts to pass Mississippi’s voter registration test, which was designed to confuse people of color and others with limited educational opportunities.

Photo by Liz Lauren

Hamer spent the rest of her life as a fierce advocate of civil and voting rights, surviving violence and jail to help found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

What’s so amazing about Butler’s performance is her ability to take the audience through all phases of Fannie’s life, both the tragedies and the joys. Butler knows how to belt it out, and wails as she gets angry through song. Fannie makes you wonder if equality might have come sooner if all women had banded together for voting rights.

Butler invites the audience to sing with her, adding to the feeling of being a part of the story. You can’t help but clap and sing along. Her performance is riveting and deserved the standing ovation.

With clips from actual events, and unsung heroes like Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X on display, the audience gets an authentic view of the civil rights movement.

A salute to her three musicians: Deonté Brantley, Morgan E., Felton Offard (October 25-31), and Michael Ross (November 3-24), who accompany Butler on stage in more than ten iconic spirituals, including We Shall Not Be Moved, I’m on My Way to Freedom, and I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.

Fannie is directed by Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez and produced as a co-commission between Goodman Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Photo by Liz Lauren

The creative team includes Colette Pollard (set design), Michael Alan Stein (costume design), Jason Lynch (lighting design), Victoria Deiorio (sound design), Rasean Davonte Johnson (projection design), and Mr. Bernard (wig design). Music direction and arrangements are by Felton Offard and dramaturgy is by Christine Sumption.

Fannie plays for 70 minutes without intermission.

More info and tickets: Goodman Theatre

Health and safety note: Proof of full vaccination with an FDA-authorized vaccine is required for all guests 12+ and a recent negative test must be presented for children under 12. Patrons must wear face coverings at all times while inside Goodman Theatre. More info.

By Mira Temkin | Loop North News | miratemkin@gmail.com

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