Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow

Jannie Jones stars in Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow, opening Capital Rep’s new venue in Albany. Original photos by Doug Liebig.
The scary truth about Ethel Waters and the singer who portrays her!

By Andrew Andrews

In the early twentieth century, Ethel Waters rose from an impoverished childhood to international fame.

Born the “bastard” daughter of a twelve-year-old mother, Waters became a vaudeville singer, joined the carnival, and worked her way into nightclubs from Atlanta to New York before landing recording contracts and movie roles.

Eventually, she became the highest paid performer on Broadway and the first “colored woman” to star in her own television show.

Jannie Jones brings Waters’ autobiography with Larry Parr, His Eye is on the Sparrow, to theREP’s new theater in Albany, after premiering and reviving the production in Florida.

For about an hour and a half, Waters tells us the story of her difficult upbringing, failed relationships and rise to stardom, eventually labeling herself a racist before joining the Billy Graham Crusade.

Throughout the monologue, which is full of split-second costume changes and anecdotes that range from uplifting to heart-wrenching, Waters breaks out into song, sampling what attracted so many audiences to the performer in her heyday.

Josh D. Smith accompanies Jones on piano.

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Andrew Andrews attended Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany on Saturday, August 28, 2021 @ 3:00pm to write this review.

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