Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer" ★ ★ ★ BANG!

Greta Oglesby's performance is the highlight of Cheryl L. West's "Fannie: The Music and Life of 
Fannie Lou Hamer." This is essentially a one-woman show, with a three-piece backup band (keyboards, guitar/bass, drums). It is labeled a musical, but although Ms. Oglesby plays the part of Ms. Hamer and sings the protest songs of the era with grace and energy, the songs themselves, which were important to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, are so simple and so familiar by now that at times the show feels bogged down by them. 

However, Ms Hamer's life and the times in which she lived, wherein Jim Crow made the laws of our country into such a hypocrisy that the Soviets could use our tv news broadcasts as examples of why our government was failing its people, should never be forgotten. Ms. West and Ms. Oglesby, along with Director Tim Bond, have done right to bring this history onto the stage. As Fannie says to us: "We've got a lot to be proud of and a lot to be ashamed of." 

Preach, Ms. Hamer. 

We love the way Ms. Oglesby mixes music with history. We believe her and feel for Ms. Hamer's personal trials. But the show still feels smaller than the stage. Perhaps these are kinks that will be worked out during this run.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise to "Fannie: The Life and Times of Fannie Lou Hamer." The Bangle is, of course, for Greta Oglesby.

While we feel the show itself is a bit simplistic, Ms. Oglesby's performance is anything but. We would like to see the rest of the production, starting with the band, match her energy. This should not be a hootenanny with a camp director leading the audience in group sing. It is a powerful story that deserves more fire.

Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

Lucie Stern Theatre

1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

Through April 2, 2023

$30 and up

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