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“Revival” of Rochester blues legend

Local News

The story of blues legend and one-time Rochester resident Eddie “Son” House is captivating audiences at Geva Theatre in Rochester.

The world-premiere show “Revival: The Resurrection of Son House” is on stage through June 2.

Actors Alexis Sims and Tyrone L. Robinson discussed the show, its music, and the Rochester connection Friday during News 8 at Noon.

“So ‘Revival’ is set actually after the death of Son House,” said Sims. “You have these seven angels who then – instead of God passing judgment on Son House immediately – they have a trial, a prosecution and defense where the defense, Sandalphon – my angel – says let’s go through his life and become these people in his life who impacted him and who he impacted to try to get a better sense of who he was, why he made the decisions that he made, and in the end did he come back around, is he worth saving?”

The show is full of music. “It’s not a musical, but there is authentic blues throughout the entire show. Our band leader, Billy Thompson, is an incredible guitarist, world-renowned blues singer, and guitarist. The show basically uses blues music to accent those moments in Son House’s life that were pivotal moments. When I say it’s authentic I mean it comes from the hearts. It comes from the soul. Our Tony Award-winning leading man, Cleavant Derricks, is unreal. He embodies the role of Son House and his voice, his singing, is the real deal and that goes throughout the entire show.”

Son House’s Rochester connection comes across on stage. “I would say the last quarter of the show discusses Dick Waterman finding him in Rochester,” noted Sims. “We mention Joe Beard and that’s where his wife, Evie, who I also play, did not allow blues in the house, so Son House it comes out had to sneak over to Joe’s to play on his guitar a little bit and practice. So you get a really good sense of his Rochester connection and how that really revitalized him and his music.”

Robinson called Geva a world-renowned theatre and that’s part of what drew him to the production. “The reputation of Geva across the country is just, you know it’s one of the best theatres to work at as an actor so that immediately drew me to it. The story, and the fact that it’s a world-premiere – we are the first cast to do this show. We are the first people to speak these words and to get a chance to inhabit these characters and so that was definitely a draw. I’m hoping that what people will take away from it is that it’s a redemption story. It’s a story of a man who through his entire life searched for answers of how to live authentically, how to be his best self. He always tried to make the best decisions, the right choices, like we all do, and sometimes he fell short.”

For tickets to see “Revival: The Resurrection of Son House” call (585) 232-GEVA or visit gevatheatre.org.

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