In 1979, Vy Higginsen and Ken Wydro had a dream. The couple wrote a musical they thought would be uplifting and inspiring. They shared their dream with producer after producer, but the response was consistent…no one will pay to see a gospel musical. The couple would not allow their dream to be dampened by naysayers. They believed in their gifts and abilities, but even greater, they believed in their God. He had given them the desire in their hearts. In the early ‘80s, the couple took their life savings and rented the Heckscher Theatre in East Harlem, New York. The theatre had been closed for over fifteen years, but the Wydro’s vision far outweighed their sight. What would have been dirt and debris to some was simply a diamond in the rough to them. As writer, producer, and director, Vy and Ken’s felt their musical would be fitting for senior citizens, church groups, and a few others in the black community. How wrong they were. Only one year after opening night, their off-Broadway musical was crowned by Time Magazine as one of the 10 best theatre performances of 1984! The award-winning stage play ran for eight years with over 2200 performances at the Heckscher Theatre. The play toured both nationally and internationally with stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Japan, Italy, Switzerland and beyond. The dream rejected by many well-known producers in New York was accepted around the world and became the longest running Black off-Broadway musical in American history.
“What is the name of the play,” you may ask? Mama, I Want To Sing! I had the privilege of seeing this musical at the Heckscher Theatre in the early ‘80s and to this day, I am still impacted by its theme and passion. Much like the writers of the stage play who were striving to fulfill their dream, the main character, Doris Winter, had an unbridled determination to succeed with the gift she had been given. The zeal I heard in Doris’ voice over 30 years ago is still riveting to my heart today. From her innermost being, the young girl pleaded with her mother to allow her to share her gift with the world. “Mama, I want to sing. Mama, I want to sing,” she continuously bellowed from the depths of her soul.
Like Vy, Ken, and even the esteemed character, Doris, I am sure you too have a dream. Has man told you it will not work? Has the world told you you do not have what it takes? Have experts said no one would be interested? Today, I ask…How long will you defer your dream? Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes, sums it up in his well-known poem, Harlem…
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Now I ask, “What will happen to your dream?”