The life of actress, singer/Holly - wood and Broadway star Ethel Waters was a rough one beginning with her home in "Whore's Alley" in Chester. As shone in the one - woman show, "Ethel Waters, His Eye Is On the Sparrow," at the Hedgerow Theatre in Media, Demetria Joyce Bailey is the talented but unhappy Waters.Waters was the product of rape with a 12 - year - old mother. As a result she was raised by her grandmother. When her grandmother died, Waters was married off to an abusive man at age 13. She had already begun singing in clubs and bars, but her big ambition was to become a maid to a rich white lady.
Rebuffed constantly because of her color, she became quite a racist, constantly harping on the fact that she was the wrong color. She was unaware of her own statue and popularity in music circles until Sophie Tucker told her. Even after headlining on Broadway, being nominated for an Oscar in Hollywood, she could not trust white people, and she had good reason not to trust them. She said, "I keep my membership in the Negro race."The real world holds more terrors than anything there was in "Whore's Alley."
When her second marriage failed because of the separation caused by her work, she retreated to Harlem, gained several hundred pounds and was "safe" from white people. Billy Graham had heard her and asked her to sing with his Crusade. She tried to avoid this, but finally joined the crusade as a member of his choir, even though she was so fat they had to saw off the arms of her chair. To her own astonishment in her old age she found peace through the hands of a white "honkey" preacher.
Waters became renowned for several signature songs, including "Stormy Weather," "His Eye is On the Sparrow," "Black and Blue" and "Heat Wave" where she received 17 curtain calls. This conflicted life story is a gem of a re - enactment by Bailey. She can spear you with her fury, charm you with her sauciness and deliver the classic blues songs for which Waters was famous. It is a difficult show portraying the mercurial Waters, and hitting the mark every time as she performs 17 songs interspersed with vignettes. Her pianist Tom Mucchetti was perfectly attuned to every moment and mood.
The show runs through Feb.
24. For tickets call 610 - 565 - 4211.