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Issue Wire

New York City, Jun 7, 2019 (  - Mississippi The Musical written by Gregory James Tornquist is set to premiere as part of the Developmental Reading Series at the New York Musical Festival Summer, 2019.

Directed by Gayle Samuels, with musical direction by Jeannine Otis and casted by GPS Casting, the compelling plot tells the story of a time in 1959, where the winds of change blew into the town of Hope River, MS.  

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Rehearsal Studio

Playwrights Horizons

416 West 42nd Street

New York, NY 10036


Performance Schedule

Wednesday, July 17 at 12:30 PM

Saturday, July 20 at 2 PM

Saturday, July 20 at 5 PM

With a talented cast that includes:  Alexa Freeman, Renee Jackson, Eli Noll, Malcolm Jamal King, Mon’Quez Pippins, Kat Council & Uriel Menson, the musical has already picked up an impressive following due to the stellar demo recording produced by Tornquist, Grammy nominee Rob Galbraith and Bruce Dees and featuring the voices of Coco Jones, the late Trent Armand Kendall, Shelly Hart Thomas, Brooke Lundy Pittman, Frank Lawson and Daria Hardeman.

Recommended for theater goers ages 17 and over, this is the first theatrical production for Angelic Star Records Entertainment Unlimited led by Producing Artistic Director, General Manager & Founder, Noreen Crayton. (For more information, visit

The New York Musical Festival nurtures the creation, production, and public presentation of stylistically, thematically, and culturally diverse new musicals to ensure the future vitality of musical theater.

Now in its sixteenth year, the Festival is the premier musical theater event in the world. The preeminent site for launching new musicals and discovering new talent, the Festival provides an affordable platform for artists to mount professional productions that reach their peers, industry leaders, and musical theater fans. More than 100 Festival shows have gone on to productions on and Off-Broadway, in regional theaters in all 50 states, and in more than 24 countries worldwide. Festival alumni have received a wide array of awards including the Tony Award® and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2013, NYMF received a special Drama Desk Award in recognition of its work "creating and nurturing new musical theater, ensuring the future of this essential art form."

NYMF is the flagship program of National Music Theater Network, Inc., a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.

The NYMF PASS is a great way to experience The New York Musical Festival. With an NYMF PASS, you can get into the theater before individual ticket holders. Passes also offer the exclusive ability to book tickets before they go on sale to the public. Individual tickets on sale now.

The 2019 New York Musical Festival will take place July 8 through August 4. For more information, please visit:


Journal Of Gospel Music

Noreen Crayton – Divine Radiance

noreen craytonNoreen Crayton
Divine Radiance
Angel Star Music (release date: January 2015)

By Bob Marovich

Divine Radiance is the third sacred music album from New York-native Noreen Crayton. While her career includes significant musical stage work in the U.S. and overseas, Crayton has gospel roots and sings with the praise and worship team at Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

Crayton nearly plays all the bases on Divine Radiance—from writer and arranger to performer and executive producer. She does employ a handful of musicians to assist her on some tracks.

Musically, the album offers a sample of everything from an engaging and entertaining jazz combo on “Thank You Jesus” to soul/R&B on “We Praise Your Name” and the title track, to heavy funk riffs on “Get To Know Him.” “Turn It Over to Jesus” has a smooth traditional feel. Crayton’s soprano is sufficiently flexible to take on a variety of styles, though the jazz combo accents her versatility best.

The lead single, “Make Me Over,” is part worship, part supplication for assistance when “life is a mess” and leaves one “bruised and sore.” It is Crayton’s first worldwide single release. “It was the last song I wrote for the album,” Crayton told JGM, “and I felt it was an extremely honest and revealing lyric for me as an artist.”

The finest moments on Divine Radiance are its simplest. Towards the conclusion of the CD, Crayton offers some inspirational ballads that capture her stage savvy. The heartwarming “Excellent,” by far the best composition on the album, has legs as a song that could itself be part of a musical. Similarly, “Who Will Be Next” is a series of dramatic stories with a deft piano backdrop provided by Kevin MacLeod that evokes Tori Amos’s contemplative performances.

If anything, there is a little too much variety on the album, making it difficult to pinpoint Crayton’s sweet spot or define her style. If she did an entire album of sacred music with the jazz combo on “Thank You Jesus,” however, you would not hear a complaint from me.

Three of Five Stars

Picks: “Turn It Over to Jesus,” “Excellent.”

It Matters Radio

Check out the webcast from It Matters Radio featuring Noreen!

Musik and Film Radio Promotions

Noreen Crayton’s, Make Me Over, was released to worldwide radio promotion just a few days ago and the response has been enormous. Noreen spoke of the response, “It’s only been a few days, but wow”!


Noreen provided some thoughtful answers about her life and music:


How would you describe your music?

Melodic, soulful, spiritual and filled with lots and lots harmonies lol


What has been your greatest opportunity in your career so far?

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of opportunities throughout my career
but I think I am most proud of the fact that Ronnie Milsap recorded a song
I co-wrote (with Greg Tornquist) and that it was the lead single on his
gospel cd and then right after that I was fortunate to win the Independent
Music Award for best gospel song for the song (I wrote all by myself),
“Walking In The Faith.”  Those two opportunities provided me with exposure
and showcased me as a writer.  It really helped me personally in that it
allowed me to realize that what I was doing wasn’t crazy lol.

What do you think distinguishes a true music artist from an entertainer?

That’s a good question, the differences are far more subtle then one

True artistry is organic and comes from a very real and honest place.  It
exists whether there is an audience watching or not.  Some of my best work
is done at 1 AM in the morning while I’m composing a song or laying a
vocal attempting to keep my heart bared (open) so that the person who will
be listening can feel the message I’m trying to convey.  Ultimately, it’s
not about entertaining but about relating and identifying with the
audience and vice versa.

Also, an entertainer has the capacity to turn what they do onstage during
a performance into an art form.  Think about Michael Jackson and what he
did and how his work touched millions of people, it was amazing.

So there are no differences really, it depends on the person and how
deeply they’d like to delve into the gift they’ve been given.

What do you want to always be remembered for?
I’d like to be remembered as an artist that stayed to true to the vision
given to her and that her music reached the very heart of someone and
helped them heal even a little bit.

What advice would you give a music artist who is just starting out?

Just keep writing and working in public.  If you hear a word or phrase
that strikes you in a very unique way, you’ll know it has meaning because
it impact you….write it down.  Carry a notebook or record the phrase on
your phone.  If you hear a melody in your head that just won’t leave you
alone, do the same thing……you’ll eventually have to deal with it and
hammer it out.  If you are given the opportunity to execute in front of
people, try not to turn it down.  Just do it even if you suffer from stage
fright like me (smile).  The thing is don’t stop the flow inside you, give
in to it even if you have to do it late at night when the kids are sleep
or when you come in from work exhausted, rest a little bit then hammer it
out even for an hour.  You’ll be really happy you did.

Where do you see your artistry going in the next 5 years?
I’d like the music I do reach more people, my prayer is to write or
co-write something that will help transform a generation.  Some of the
things I see and read about in the news is just heartbreaking.  I’m
beginning to feel that human beings don’t even like one another let alone
feel for each other and themselves.  I’d like to be part of something far
bigger than me.  Write or co-write or work on something artistic that will
change people’s hearts and minds so that we all realize we are here for
one another and that we all work for the greater good and from the heart.

Anything else you really want to say?

Thanks for listening to what I’ve
released so far, there’s more to come, I hope you enjoy it and I hope it’s
something helps you get through the day.

Thanks for sharing, Noreen!


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Gospel CD Reviews

The state of New York has a wealth of amazing things in it and when we think of gospel music, we can’t always assume that the south is the reservoir of talent.  North Babylon, New York gospel recording artist Noreen Craytonis an amazingly gifted, talented and highly favored artist that is doing great things!! Her soulful voice is the perfect vehicle to convey her musical ministry and she is definitely on a level that is typically matched only by a select few! One thing that clearly stands out about Noreen is her clear message and the versatility she embodies to get that message to the audience! Her resume is jammed packed with experience and notoriety and, according to her website, her bio includes the 9th Annual Independent Music Award for best gospel song, “Walking In The Faith“; The Legros Cultural Arts’ 2010 Vocalist of the Year AwardBillboard World Music Honorable Mention for the song “There’s Nobody Like Jesus” and “Up To Zion” was part of Ronnie Milsap‘s gospel album which was nominated for aDove Award!  Amazing; clearly Noreen is doing big things and has been blessed tremendously!

Noreen Crayton’s latest release entitled, “Divine Radiance” is a must have folks! We have been listening to it and YES IT IS AWESOME! It is a collection of-spiritually-moving songs that are sure to connect with you on a highly inspirational and praiseworthy level!  Songs such as “We Praise Your Name“, which is one of our favorites and “Make Me Over” are clearly songs that are Stellar-level compositions that are the total package!

Noreen Crayton is a superstar gospel recording artist that we recommend for your next event! For booking information, click here  We also strongly encourage you to purchase “Diving Radiance” today, which you can purchase below via iTunes!


Times Square Chronicles

Broadway Sings For Pride had its 4th annual concert this past Monday to benefit the Hetrick- Martin Institute, an LGBTQ youth-empowering organization set up to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths ages 13 to 24. 26 singers from Broadway as well as film and television volunteered their time to perform a variety of songs to the theme “Anthem” at Toshi’s Living Room & Penthouse the day after the annual Gay Pride March. Stars from hot Broadway shows such as Aladdin, Rock of Ages, Motown, The Book of Mormon and many more sang in a stunning, up-beat two act performance as a cheering audience donated cash to Hetrick-Martin.

“These singers are just unbelievable,” says Musical Director and Arranger Charles Santoro. “You just sit there and your jaw drops.” Santoro could have been more correct. Song after song, performers such as Leeds Hill (Cabaret), Noreen Crayton (Rent), and Rachel Lorin (Oxygen Network’s The Next Big Thing) knocked their Broadway solos out of the park. Marisha Wallace from Aladdin along with Phyre Hawkins and Solomon Kee brought the house down with their rocking opening to the second act. MJ Rodriguez from Rent gave the entire audience goose bumps. The talent and drive behind the Broadway Sings for Pride lineup was spectacular across the board.

For his first time as Musical Director for Broadway Sings for Pride, Santoro did a stunning job. “It’s a lot of fun to get 26 Broadway people together in a room and rehearse… we all came together, and they’re all so great and talented, I wasn’t worried for a second.”

Among the most notable performers of the night were performance alumni from the progressive and ever-inspiring Broadway musical Rent. Noreen Crayton spoke for everyone as she spoke of Jonathan Larson’s work and what it meant to her: “You have a musical that Jonathan Larson wrote like RENT, which addressed so many issues like AIDS, HIV positive, and with different lifestyles. And that was ahead of its time. And here we are now in 2014 where, now we have some states where you can marry regardless of who you love, and I think that’s the most important thing that Pride is to me. And I fully support the LGTB community.”

Amy Spanger, Noreen Crayton,Sparkman Clark a and Bridget Cady

Amy Spanger, the third actress to ever play Maureen in Rent’s first national tour spoke of the voice that Rent gave LGBTQ youths across the nation. “It was incredible, it was the rock star experience, because everywhere we went there were screaming fans,” recalled Spanger. “There were young kids, young boys who would dress like Angel, the self expression was definitely evident in all of our audiences.

“You are who you are,” continued Rent alumnus Bridget Cady. “Everyone should support and love everybody, and this play was about loving and supporting each other.” The former Rent stars certainly drove the overall message and story of Jonathan Larson’s play home over the course of the night. Spanger and Cady sang a spectacular performance of the Rent classic, “Take Me As I Am,” and the two vocal powerhouses joined Rent performers Catrice Joseph, Sam Given, Ano Okera, and MJ Rodriguez along with Khadia to close the night with “Seasons of Love.” The strength of this year’s performance only reflects how far Neal Bennington has come with Broadway Sings For Pride.

“It really started because I was thinking that there were so many tragic LGTB suicides, and there has to be something someone could do,” says Neal Bennington, who both produced and conceived Broadway Sings for Pride. “So I reached out to a few Broadway friends, and before you know it, 2 became 20 and we had our first concert, and then it benefited the LGTB center and from there we went on to help Hetrick- Martin.”

In its fourth year, Broadway Sings For Pride has certainly proved to be a success, not only as a benefit but also for spreading general awareness to the NYC community. “It’s also about giving awareness to what’s going on in the community and to show people, especially the young kids, that they’re not alone, and that it’s ok to show your pride,” states Bennington.

As for the future of Neal Bennington and Broadway Sings For Pride, ideas and ambitions to take the cause even further are in place. “I would love to go into schools to do workshops and really branch out,” says Bennington. “And we’ve been asked about if we’d ever do the west coast, and I’d love to do that…. I’d like to go where the word is needed to be spread.”

Bennington has already come far with Broadway Sings for Pride, and with the enthusiastic turnout, both of volunteer performers and audience members, the future of this great cause looks bright. Everyone involved echoes the passion and drive that Bennington brings to the table.

Noreen Crayton, Bridget Cady, King Aswad and Amy Spanger

As Rent alumnus King Aswad summed up beautifully, “Gay Pride is about awareness and continuing to spread this message. Rent was this story that was a sign of the times, it’s a timeless story at that. I think it’s important that people continue to share the message and spread awareness, it’s key. That’s why we’re all here today for Broadway Sings for Pride.”

Marisha Wallace from Aladdin along with Phyre Hawkins and Solomon Kee

Singer, Songwriter, Thespian

Ms. Crayton was one of the most eloquent of the recipients.  Having begun her singing career in the church, as has so many other great black singers, she was warm, charming and intelligent. And she give abundant props to Legos for creating this forum where multi-cultural  artists can meet and interact.  She was a delight to listen to.

Independent Music Awards - Interview

Check out Noreen's interview on the IMA Website.  You'll read all about the history behind her winning song "Wallking In The Faith"

Independent Music Awards

Congratulations to Noreen Crayton and Rob Galbraith (the producer) for winning the Independent Music Award in the Gospel Song Category.  'Walking In The Faith' can be heard on her debut cd, 'a diary of deliverance' on Angelic Star Records.  It will also be added to the Independent Music Award's compilation cd.  Both projects are available on iTunes.

Press Release

For Immediate Release      January 26, 2010
New York's own Noreen Crayton joins All That Remains, Holly Go Lightly & The Brokeoffs,
Gemma Ray And Spinerette As Winners of THE 9TH ANNUAL INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS

“People’s Voice” Online Voting Component Will Determine The IMA Vox Pop Winners

January 26, 2010 –  New York based gospel artist, Noreen Crayton joins All That Remains,
 Holly Go Lightly & The Brokeoffs, Gemma Ray, Spinnerette and other self-released and independent label talent as Winners in The 9th annual Independent Music Awards (The IMAs), the influential awards program for independent bands and fans.

In working with Grammy nominated producer Rob Galbraith, Noreen Crayton has written the winning gospel song ‘Walking In The Faith.’  Musicians, Clayton Ivey, Larry Paxton, Greg Tornquist, Owen Hale, Jack Pearson and Larry Byrom have added their talents creating the flow that makes 'Walking In The Faith' the IMA judges' choice.  Currently, 'Up To Zion' co-written by Noreen and Greg Tornquist is on Grammy winner Ronnie Milsap's gospel cd 'Then Sings My Soul.'

The Winners in more than 50 album, song, music video and design categories culled from thousands of submissions from around the globe, were determined by a panel of 80 influential artists and industry pros including Tom Waits, The Black Keys, Ricky Skaggs, Pete Wentz, Mark Hoppus, Aimee Mann, The Apples in Stereo, David Garrett, Suzanne Vega, Bettye LaVette, Judy Collins, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.

Music fans have until June 25 to champion their favorite Nominees at The IMA Vox Pop Jukebox ( to determine The 9th Independent Music Awards ‘People’s Voice’ Winners.

Details and complete list of Winners, Nominees and Judges available at:

iTunes® Launches The Independent Music Awards Store

“The IMAs celebrate artists who follow their own muse and the true music fans that support them”, said Martin Folkman, Executive Director of The Independent Music Awards.

The releases of the Album category winners will be featured at The Independent Music Awards page on the iTunes Store that launched Tuesday, January 26.

Additionally, the releases of the Album category Winners will be featured on the iTunes Indie Spotlight page at
“The artists who’ve been honored by The IMAs create some of the best music you may never have heard, and we’re delighted to promote them at the world’s largest music retailer”, said Folkman, “The Indie Spotlight section especially, is a boon to fans who seek a more unique and diverse play list”.

Artistry Has Its Awards

For the past 10 years, artists and labels from around the world have found new fans and prominence through The Independent Music Awards.

Produced by Music Resource Group, publisher of the popular industry contact database The Musician’s Atlas, The IMAs uses its unrivaled access to performance, promotion and distribution to connect Winners and Nominees to new audiences and revenue opportunities.

The program receives submissions from artists previously on major labels as well as self-released and indie label talent from more than 70 countries on six continents. 

Current and past Nominee and winners include: And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Cursive, fun., Dan Zanes, Ra-Ra-Riot, The Ckiks, Tom Yoder, Vienna Teng, Jamie Lidell, Lacuna Coil, The Trews, Joan As Police Woman, Koko Taylor, Miguel Migs, Speech, God Forbid, Lionel Loueke, Jeff Healey, Johnny Dowd, Chris Whitley, Ike Turner, The Apples in stereo, Mary Gauthier, Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland), The Mooney Suzuki, and Dengue Fever among many others.

Submissions for The 10th Independent Music Awards program are currently being accepted at:

The 9th IMA Winners


Artist: Beat Circus
Album: Boy From Black Mountain
Label: Cuneiform

Artist: Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs
Album: Dirt Don't Hurt
Label: Transdreamer

Artist: Joe & Vicki Price
Album: Rain or Shine

Artist: Charlie Hope
Album: I'm Me! A Collection Of Songs For Children
Label: Little Maple Leaf Productions

Album: AEMMP Records Chompilation
Label: AEMMP Records, Columbia College Chicago

Artist: Phil Roy
Album: In The Weird Small Hours
Label: Ear Pictures

Artist: John Mandeville
Album: We Belong To Heaven
Label: I.P.O. Records

Artist: Heritage Orchestra feat. DJ Yoda
Album: G. Prokofiev Concerto for Turntables
Label: Nonclassical Recordings

Artist: Dale Watson
Album: The Truckin' Sessions, Vol. 2
Label: Hyena Records

Artist: Alaska in Winter
Album: Holiday
Label: Milan Records

Artist: Gemma Ray
Album: Lights Out Zoltar!
Label: Bronzerat Records

Artist: Michael Zapruder
Album: Dragon Chinese C0cktail Horoscope
Label: Side Cho

Artist: Russell Leonce
Album: Culture of Love

Artist: All That Remains
Album: Overcome
Label: Razor & Tie Entertainment

Album: Cedille On The Move
Label: Cedille Records

Artist: Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets
Album: Echoes Of Ethnicity
Label: Owl Studios

Artist: Maestros del Joropo Oriental
Album: Y Que Viva Venezuela!
Label: Smithsonian Folkways

Artist: Danielia Cotton
Album: Live Child
Label: Cottontown Records

Artist: Rocky Fretz
Album: The Path Ahead...And Steps Then Taken

Artist: Spinnerette
Album: Spinnerette
Label: Anthem

Artist: The So So Glos
Album: Tourism / Terrorism
Label: Green Owl

Artist: Michael Olatuja
Album: Speak
Label: Backdrop/ObliqSound

Artist: Illa J
Album: Yancey Boys
Label: Delicious Vinyl

Artist: Oran Etkin
Album: Kelenia
Label: Motema Music

Album: Blodeugerdd Song Of The Flowers: An Anthology Of Welsh Music And Song
Label: Smithsonian Folkways


Artist: Joanna Chapman-Smith
Song: "Little Miss Sunshine"

Artist: My Cousin, The Emperor
Song: "A Long Way From Home"

Artist: Tim Easton
Song: "Burgundy Red"
Label: New West Records

Artist: Used Blues Band
Song: "Palm Reader Blues"

Artist: Charlie Hope
Song: "I'm Me!"
Label: Little Maple Leaf Productions

Artist:Christopher Williams
Song: "Anything But Fail"
Label: BiG ReD VaN Music

Artist: Codie Prevost
Song: "Spin"
Label: Goos Spirit Records

Artist: Daisy Chapman
Song: "Umbrella" Orig. by Rihanna
Label: Dandyland

Artist: Codebreaker
Song: "Follow Me"
Label: Disco Demolition Records

Artist: The Submarines
Song: "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie" from the Apple iPhone 3GS ad
Label: Nettwerk

Artist: Wolf In the Fold
Song: "Death"

Artist: Noreen Crayton
Song: "Walking in the Faith"
Label: Angelic Star Records

Artist: Moving Atlas
Song: "Becoming Blue"

Artist: Austin McMahon
Song: "Platone"
Label: Fractamodi

Artist: Jimmy Fontanez
Song: "Mi Salsa Vocal"

Artist: Emma-Lee
Song: "Until We Meet Again"
Label: Bumstead Productions

Artist: Tom Yoder
Song: "Locked In"

Artist: fun.
Song: "All The Pretty Girls"
Label: Nettwerk

Artist: The So So Glos
Song: "My Block"
Label: Green Owl

Artist: Shoshana Bean
Song: "Superhero"
Label: Shotime Records

Artist: Miles Jones
Song: "Coast to Coast"

Artist: State Radio
Song: "Calling All Crows"
Label: Nettwerk

Artist: Lisa Carver
Song: "Bullets"
Label: Adroit Records

Artist: The Very Best
Song: "Warm Heart of Africa" feat. Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig
Label: Green Owl

Artist: Roman Miroshnichenko
Song: "Unforgiven"
Label: Raritet



Artist: Anj
Video: "Gorbachev"

Artist: The Jimmies
Video: Trying Funny Stuff DVD


Designer: Tri-Plex Packaging Corp. of New York
Package: Pete Seeger - American Favorite Ballads: Vol. 1-5

Photo: Sholi

Photographer: Jason Grover
Photo: Blake Berglund

Photographer: Killshot Photography * Brooks Institute
Photo: GWAR

Designer: Matt Kelley - One Lucky Guitar
Poster: Lead Belly




Magic Voices

It is so awesome to finally see & hear Noreen’s first solo album – she has come a long, long way … I was reminiscing quite a bit over our ’ole touring times’ & how long we’ve known each other while I was listening to her first solo cd.


Noreen Crayton is an outstanding vocalist as well as an amazing performer. During our days on the road, I have had the wonderful opportunity of seeing her perform many, many times. And all I can say is: wheeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwww!


Noreen is a powerhouse singer who can take you from the faintest, sweetest note all the way to having her voice fill a whole church … and she wouldn’t necessarily need a mic to accomplish this. Above and beyond her vocal skills, she is also a wonderfully gifted performer who knows and genuinely interacts with her audience.


Everyone who has ever heard Noreen perform “In The Upper Room” will know what I’m talking about. This used to be *her* song on our Gospel Tours not because the MD *gave* her the song, no way, but because she *made* it her song by giving it all her voice, all her soul and all her trust and belief ~ and all her energy, too, *smiles*


Noré, congratulations on your debut album!!! 
Thank you so much & good luck for your cd!!!


If any of you ever have the chance to see Noreen perform live ~ by all means: go and see her! In the meantime, be sure to check out her website for more info!




Anointed Sound

Radio Interview

Gospel Today

The stereotype of "preacher's kids" includes images of rebellious young people whose wild and adventurous lifestyle is the exact opposite of what their parents teach and represents. Preacher's kids often find themselves living under constant pressure and scrutiny while all the time wrestling with the expectations of others. Closer to reality is the fact that preachers and the children who grow up in parsonages or pastor homes, make meaningful contributions to the body of Christ and the work of the church.

For the last 50 years, one of the outstanding icons of the church community has been that of Dr. Spurgeon E. Crayton of the Mt. Ollie Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Crayton's pastoral career includes that of the Calvary Baptist Church of East Hampton, the Holy Trinity Baptist Church of Amityville, NY and the Mt. Ollie Baptist Church where he recently retired from. He has served as Moderator of the Eastern Baptist Association, President of the Empire State Baptist Convention Congress of Christian Education and a highly sought after pulpiteer on the national circuit.

From the seed of Dr. Crayton comes his daughter, Noreen Crayton, a superb singer and gospel artist who has recently released a gospel video entitled "Nobody Like Jesus". The gospel video is apart of her new CD project, "Diary of Deliverance", and is rapidly becoming a favorite for those who are following new artists on the horizon.

The musical accomplishments of Ms Crayton turns the traditional negative stereotype of "pk's" on its head and goes a long way to demonstrate that great talent and contributions still come from the parsonage of pastors.

The Tennessean

“……..Noreen Crayton, who lends a much-needed sonic blast to the score’s best tune, Seasons of Love….” National Touring Company of RENT


Jet Magazine

A mention regarding the musical Abyssinia

Chicago Tribune


`Abyssinia` Is A Stunning Musical That Delivers Powerful Messages

August 19, 1988|By Michael Kilian, Chicago Tribune.

WASHINGTON — Seldom have 14 people so filled a stage or 14 voices raised in song so shaken a theater.

Getting from the regional stage to Broadway is always problematical, but America would seem to have a hot little potential hit on its hands.

It`s an all-black musical called ``Abyssinia,`` which opened last week at Washington`s Arena Stage. The play has nothing to do with the African country now known as Ethiopia. Rather, it tells the story of a young black girl, named Abyssinia Jackson, growing up in pre-World War I rural Oklahoma.

Born in a terrifying thunderstorm that brought labor to her mother in the middle of a cotton field, she is given the gift of an unnatural, highly spiritual power of song. Her voice becomes the glory of her local Baptist church, a medium through which the common black people of her community find healing, solace and a closeness to God.

But her knowledge of the world is one of innocence. The harsh, unfair and seemingly random tragedies of life are visited upon her in two ways-through the malevolent presence of a bitter unbeliever named Trembling Sally, who lost her children in a flood and seeks to deny God at every opportunity; and through a horrible and unexpected turn of events at a church picnic that leads to the rape of Abyssinia by the church deacon.

Abyssinia, born so close to God, must again find Him. She does so, by coming to grips with Trembling Sally`s torment and the poignant death of a beloved friend. She discovers that joy and salvation come from transcending evil, not avoiding it.

Taken from the novel ``Marked by Fire,`` by Joyce Carol Thomas,

``Abyssinia`` is as simple a tale as it is sweet and touching, but it deals more powerfully with the essential questions of life than many more ambitious theatrical productions. It would stand on its own as a work of drama, but as a musical vehicle it`s just plain stunning-especially with the numbers ``Pickin` Up the Pieces,`` a rousing gospel hymn to optimism, and ``Honey and Lemon,`` a song, sung from the heart, on the bittersweet nature of life.

The principals, both on and off stage, all seem to be people deservingly poised on the brink of stardom.

Noreen Crayton, who plays Abyssinia, is herself a devout Christian who first began singing in church. If her voice doesn`t quite have the extraordinary magic that the script would seem to require, it is wonderfully melodious, and Crayton certainly can act the part.

Tina Fabrique, who plays the doomed and beloved down-to-earth saint, Mother Vera, and sings the show-stopping ``Honey and Lemon,`` has ``The Wiz,`` ``Ain`t Misbehavin` `` and Duke Ellington`s ``Queenie Pie`` among her credits.

Cheryl Freeman, as Abyssinia`s comely, can`t-keep-her-down mamma, sings and dances most joyfully. Lehman Beneby`s charismatic performance as the minister is so captivating as to make anyone who sees and hears this play want to join his church.

There are some unfortunate theatrical stereotypes in ``Abyssinia.`` As the sassy, crotchety Aunt Selma, LaDonna Mabry is funny but so predictable she might as well wear a sign saying, ``comic relief.``

The music is by Ted Kociolek, pianist/conductor in the Broadway shows ``I Love My Wife,`` ``Barnum`` and ``My One and Only.`` Lyrics are by James Racheff, a cabaret comic familiar to audiences of National Public Radio`s

``All Things Considered.``

Tazewell Thompson, director/musical staging, won critical praise for his direction and choreography of Aaron Copland`s opera ``The Second Hurricane.`` Daryl Waters, musical director/arranger, has worked with Eartha Kitt and was musical director for productions of ``The Colored Museum,`` ``My Name is Alice`` and ``Ain`t Misbehavin`.``

``Abyssinia`` was born as an idea of New York`s Musical Theater Workshop, where it was first performed last year. The production was taken over by the Goodspeed Opera House of Chester, Conn., which is responsible for the casting, and then moved to Washington`s Arena Stage.

The response of the opening night audience was thunderous. ``Abyssinia``

is refreshing, unpretentious, authentic and a genuinely American musical. It deserves Broadway. At the very least, it deserves another regional stage after it ends its run at the Arena Sept. 4.

Chicago Sun Times

Mama, I Want to Sing Doris Winter Noreen Crayton Mama Winter Doris Troy Sister Carrie Kathleen Murphy-Palmer Minister of Music Charles Stewart The Civic Theater presents a musical written by Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro, directed by Wydro. Musical direction by Rudolph V. Hawkins. Presented through May 18 at 20 N. Wacker. 346-0270.

`Mama, I Want to Sing," a New York gospel revue making its Chicago debut, is just like a party that never stops. During the 2 1/2 hours that "Mama" fills the Civic Theater, untempered joy washes over the stage, simply bathing the audience in happiness. If sheer exhilaration can cure the blues, "Mama, I Want to Sing" has the power to heal what ails you.

"Mama" isn't a perfect show, however. The book is weak and the story line a bit too mawkish to be believed. The artificial device of having a radio announcer narrate the story sinks to a new low when the "Mama" producers introduce a group-sales commercial into the "broadcast."

But who cares? When rubber-kneed Charles Stewart leads the Reach Ensemble in full-throated, timber-shaking musical prayer, plot is unnecessary anyway. "Mama" might be a flimsy traditional musical but it succeeds as a loosely woven collection of powerfully delivered anthems.

The musical revue tells the tale of Doris Winter, a preacher's daughter who graduates from the church choir to the big time, battling her skeptical mother all the way. Winter is a pseudonym for Doris Troy, a real gospel-turned-pop singer who plays the role of Mama Winter in "Mama, I Want to Sing."

Noreen Crayton as Doris Winter displays awesome vocal talent. When singing as a little girl she pipes in a pretty little soprano. And then, overcome with emotion, she snarls, dives and whoops into the alto register, pulling a lifetime of longing out of each soulful phrase. As the play progresses, Crayton just keeps getting better. She's particularly fetching when she accurately mimes a young girl's fascination with growing up.

As good as Crayton is, Troy still can teach her a thing or two about soulful phrasing. Troy, who recorded the hit "Just One Look " in 1963, has the kind of rich, dark voice that caresses each note of a song. And when she really starts wailing, she can send electricity racing down a listener's spine.

Sharing the ability to get an audience whooping and hollering is Kathleen Murphy-Palmer, who tears into gospel numbers as Sister Carrie, Doris's family friend and mentor.

Surely the most frenetic performance is given by Stewart, who arches into backbends, leaps in the air and shimmies on flying feet as the high-on-the-Lord choir director. The man could give a mega-watt show of his own.

The production is anchored by the Reach Ensemble, a beautifully fine-tuned group of singers who have been coached and directed by Rudolph V. Hawkins, of the Hawkins family.

On Tuesday night, "Mama" ended with a foot-stomping jam featuring Troy in full voice and a swaying, clapping audience. The joy was in full throttle.


Philadelphia Inqurer

Mama' Brings Gospel And Rock To Shubert

Posted: April 10, 1986

Mama I Want to Sing is a show with a flimsy story line, undistinguished original music and lyrics, and not one name performer.

Yet it has packed a Harlem theater for more than three years, and it arrived this week at the Shubert Theater, where it will run until April 20, as part of a lengthy national tour.

The explanation for its huge popular success is quite simple: Mama I Want to Sing involves its audience to an extraordinary degree.

Director Ken Wydro knows that people come to Mama to hear gospel and rock music sung well, and that is what he gives them. The characters may be mere shadows and the story poorly developed, but the singing by performers who can

put a song across with style almost never stops.

Wydro created Mama in collaboration with his wife, Vy Higginsen. It is based on the life story of Higginsen's sister, Doris Troy, a pop singer of the '50s and '60s, and is told in scenes that keep dialogue to a minimum. Like so many other black singers, Troy gets her start in the church choir, in her case the choir of the Harlem church of which her father is pastor.

The outline is simple: Shortly after Troy makes her debut with the choir as a child, her father dies. As a teenager she is determined to become a popular singer and, against her mother's wishes, sings with a pop group at a Harlem nightclub. She argues with her mother about leaving home to pursue a career but ultimately wins her blessing. In the end, she returns to her neighborhood church, allowing cast and audience to join in the gospel song "This Little Light of Mine" to end the show.

Higginsen once was a popular New York disk jockey and she - or, at least on opening night Tuesday, an actress portraying her - narrates Troy's story from a radio booth on the side of the stage. Troy also appears, playing her own mother. It is very much a family affair, and even though the characters never really come alive, the show has a homey atmosphere that enhances its appeal.

The disk jockey's inspirational homilies, Troy's you-do-what-I-tell-you- girl portrayal of her own mother and the hand-clapping, foot-stomping scenes of church singing all strike responsive chords in the audience. Theatergoers clap along with the songs and audibly indicate their agreement with passages of dialogue.

(This familiarity with the audience enables the show's creators to attempt what must be a theatrical first for any production: a commercial for itself. At one point, the disk jockey breaks off her spiel about Doris Troy to describe Mama's success and to give the phone number to call for group sales.)

But what really rouses the audience is the singing. Noreen Crayton, as Troy, has an extraordinary voice. It is strong but not harsh, and she can reach and hold the long, high notes to which the songwriters (Rudolph V. Hawkins, Pat Holley, Steven Taylor and Doris Troy) are partial and which the audience loves to hear. Crayton, a college student, is as good with the gospel ''His Eye Is on the Sparrow" as she is with the rock ditty "The One Who Will Love Me," the show's best original song.

Kathleen Murphy-Palmer brings feeling and a touch of humor to her portrayal of the high-strutting, gospel-singing Sister Carrie, but the musical backbone of the show is the fine work by the 18-member chorus called the Reach Ensemble. Its expert harmonizing on the gospel numbers, background vocalizing on the rock tunes and solos by individual members emphasize that Mama, for all its just-folks approach, is a thoroughly professional presentation.

The music would sound even better if the sound system were not so awful. The singing blares from speakers that are tinny in the higher registers and so far removed from the stage that, at times, it seems the performers are silently acting the show while their voices are being electronically relayed.

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