Blessed Assurance on Broadway

In yesterday’s NYT, on p. 1 of the print edition, “Something Happened on the Way to Bountiful: Everyone Sang Along” by William Grimes:

Not long after the curtain rises on the second act of “The Trip to Bountiful,” the Broadway revival of the Horton Foote play at the Stephen Sondheim Theater, something unusual happens. Cicely Tyson, as Mrs. Carrie Watts, sits on a bus station bench in a small Texas town. She is on the run from her abusive daughter-in-law and henpecked son in Houston, desperate to see the family farm in Bountiful once more before she dies.

Overcome with emotion, she begins singing an old Protestant hymn, “Blessed Assurance.”

From the first note, there’s a palpable stirring among many of the black patrons in the audience, which the play, with its mostly black cast, draws in large numbers. When Ms. Tyson jumps to her feet, spreads her arms and picks up the volume, they start singing along. On some nights it’s a muted accompaniment. On other nights, and especially at Sunday matinees, it’s a full-throated chorus that rocks the theater.

Video here: Blessed Assurance on Broadway

For a big white-gospel production of the hymn (by Bill and Gloria Gaither), see this video:

And for some discussion of the hymn, see this posting of mine.


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