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'Marie and Rosetta' brings legendary story to life


Last updated 2/1/2019 at 3:47pm

Karli Cadel Photography photos

Amaiya Holley as Marie Knight costars with Noel Simone Wippler as Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Even before anyone knew what it was called, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was performing her music in New York City at The Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom styling her personal sound fresh from the Arkansas pulpit.

It is universally agreed that rock and roll emerged from gospel rhythm. And then someone added a Gibson guitar and before you knew it, the angels wept.

The disciples that followed included the likes of Billie Holiday, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Janis Joplin, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix.

Recognized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, as an "influencer," Sister Rosetta certainly made an impact. Often compared to Mahalia Jackson, (Queen of Gospel), Sister carved her special niche into the history of music.

The multitalented Noel Simone Wippler represents Sister in the current production "Marie and Rosetta" playing at the Cygnet Theatre.

Noel Simone Wippler portrays Sister Rosetta Tharpe in "Marie and Rosetta" at The Cygnet Theatre through Feb. 19.

A recent recipient of the Siena Jazz Vocal Scholarship in Italy, Wippler's vocals and stage characterization are outstanding.

As the story unfolds, Sister recruited Marie Knight to co-star with her. Even after years of success in the North, when they toured the Bible Belt they were forced to play in barns, church basements and juke joints.

Amaiya Holley graced the stage as Marie. Powered by their enthusiastic vocals and charismatic presence, Holley and Wippler brought this legendary story to life.

"Marie and Rosetta" is playing through Feb. 19 at The Cygnet Theatre in Old Town San Diego. (619) 337-1525 or

Rated 9 out of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at


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