Mama, I Want to Sing: The Groundbreaking Black Musical
Home The Stars Timeline The Sequels Connect Mailing List Normal text Larger text Largest text Note
Shirley Caesar played Mama Winter
Desiree Coleman as Doris Winter

Desiree Coleman played Doris Winter in the production at the Heckscher Theatre from 1983-1985.

English Poster with Stacy Francis and Doris Troy

Shirley Caesar performed the role of Mama Winter at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in 1994.

A Milestone in American Theater

The Longest Running Black Off-Broadway Musical in American History

The story of a young woman's quest to discover and express her inner talent while respecting her family traditions, Mama, I Want to Sing is the groundbreaking gospel production that changed the course of theatrical musicals in the late 20th century.

Mama, I Want to Sing has played to hundreds of thousands of people of many cultures, races, and faiths. The show has touched the hearts of audiences around the world through its universal story and rousing music. The show works well no matter where it plays because the story is timeless and the music is inspired!

Book Mama for Your Venue

Harlem Musical Theatre Series

Current productions from the producers of Mama, I Want to Sing:

Sing Harlem Sing!
More info

Tickets

We Are!
More info

Tickets

Alive!
More info

Tickets

The Origin

A Sister's Story

Vy Higginsen realized that the story of her sister, Doris Troy, was similar to that of many R&B stars. Like Doris—whose 1963 hit single, "Just One Look," launched her to international fame and a successful career in London in the late 1960s and 1970s—many of our nation's most acclaimed R&B and jazz vocalists came out of the church. Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Donna Summer, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan all started their illustrious careers in church choirs.

A Story Worth Telling

In 1979, Vy Higginsen and her husband, Ken Wydro wrote the book and lyrics for Mama. It was rejected by every major producer in New York. Not one producer believed that the story was worth telling or that an audience could be found for a gospel-based production

The Next Generation

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson and the cast of The Next Generation

Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson (center) in the role inspired by her aunt's life, Doris Winter, with other members of the cast of Mama I Want to Sing: The Next Generation, 2011.

Mama, I Want to Sing: The Next Generation

Spring 2015 Performance Schedule

Mama, I Want to Sing is scheduled to return in Spring 2015 in repertory with Sing! Mama 2.

Proceeds benefit the groundbreaking Mama Foundation program:
Gospel for Teens

In 1995, Mama was performed at the Gielgud Theater in London, England, with Stacy Francis in the role of Doris Winter.

The Vision

A Lifetime's Investment

Vy and Ken invested their entire life savings in opening the show in East Harlem at The Heckscher Theatre, which had been closed for fifteen years. As the chains were lifted off the door, puffs of dust and dirt greeted Vy and Ken in the abandoned 632-seat theater. But standing on that dusky, silent dimly-lit stage, Vy envisioned the theater filled with senior citizens, church groups, school children, and hard-working black mothers and fathers who had spiritual values and loved soul-stirring music.

Charles Stewart in the role of Minister of Music

Charles Stewart (center) was known as Mr. Energy in his role of Minister of Music for the years 1985–1990.

A Vision Realized

Mama, I Want to Sing opened March 23, 1983 without fanfare and on a shoestring operational, promotional, and publicity budget. Word-of-mouth spread quickly through the black community as well as through the theatrical and traditional musical circles. Mama, I Want to Sing presented the passion, spontaneity and emotional uplift of the black church experience along with a universal message for anyone with a dream. Vy's original vision came true, and Mama, I Want to Sing played 2,500 performances in New York and another 1,000 performances throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan.