With a New "Ethel Waters" in Place, Sparrow Opens in Philly Jan. 25

News   With a New "Ethel Waters" in Place, Sparrow Opens in Philly Jan. 25
A week before its Jan. 23 first performance in suburban Philadelphia, the Northeast premiere of Ethel Waters, His Eye Is On the Sparrow, lost something vital — its Ethel Waters.
Demetria Joyce Bailey
Demetria Joyce Bailey

In a quick avoidance of stormy weather, Bristol Riverside Theatre invited an old favorite, Philadelphia-area singer and actress Demetria Joyce Bailey, to step into the title role of the play with music by Larry Parr. Two days of previews (Jan. 23-24) were cancelled to allow for extra rehearsal, and Bailey — who has appeared in Bristol concerts — opens Jan. 25.


The Bristol, PA, troupe had to do some scrambling when Ernestine Jackson, who was slated to play the role, cited health reasons and left the production Jan. 16 after two weeks of rehearsals.

Parr's play focuses on the Chester-born, Philadelphia-raised Waters, who overcame poverty to become a Broadway and Hollywood star noted for appearances in The Member of the Wedding, Cabin in the Sky, At Home Abroad and As Thousands Cheer. Her signature songs include "Stormy Weather" (also a Lena Horne standard), "Takin' a Chance on Love" and "Black and Blue," among others.

Susan D. Atkinson directs Ethel Waters, His Eye Is On the Sparrow,, which runs through Feb. 11. Following Bailey's first rehearsal, Atkinson remarked, "I am floored by Demetria's abilities to absorb so much music, dialogue and blocking in one day. We all knew she was talented, but her retention of the material and insight to the character was marvelous. I am greatly looking forward to the wonderful performance she is going to give."

Bailey previously performed on the BRT stage in the 2006 Summer Musicale Series productions of For Sentimental Reasons: A Tribute to Nat 'King' Cole and War Songs: The Songs of the Vietnam Era. She also joined the cast of BRT's fourth annual Winter Musicale this past December. Philadelphia-area credits include Ain't Misbehavin', Little Shop of Horrors and My Mother's Inheritance.

Bristol Riverside Theatre is at 120 Radcliffe Street, in Historic Bristol Borough.

For information call (215) 785-0100 or visit www.BRTstage.org.

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