The voice of “Reading Rainbow” Tina Fabrique performs in Mosaic Theater “Marys Seacole”
You know her voice singing the iconic theme from “Reading Rainbow” on TV. This month, Tina Fabrique is performing in Mosaic Theater’s “Marys Seacole” through May 29.
WTOP’s Jason Fraley Premieres “Marys Seacole” (Part 1)
You know her voice singing the iconic theme from the TV show “Reading Rainbow.”
This month, Tina Fabrique is performing in Mosaic Theater’s “Marys Seacole” through May 29.
“It’s about Mary Seacole,” Fabrique told WTOP. “It’s her story about her life and her work as a carer, but also the other Marys represent other women who have other things to overcome. In each case, each Mary does something in her life to enlighten her and elucidate its connection with the Mary Seacole is the one you will see playing.
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning Jackie Sibblies Drury, the story follows the incredible life of Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse who served in the Crimean War in the 1850s.
“She started to learn more about healing, caregiving and her own medicine,” Fabrique said. “She is a Jamaican Brit and her mother was the first to train her. She was around the time Florence Nightingale was on the scene, but because she was a black woman, she was not given free rein to be a medic to go and help injured British soldiers.
Her story is very unique at a time when other people of color were enslaved.
“Her father was a Scottish soldier, her mother was Jamaican, she was a free woman, so right away that puts her in a different mode for that time period… 1850s, a black woman getting on a boat, going in a another part of the world to do care, insurmountable danger just being on a boat, being a single woman, picking up supplies… she was a real go-getter,” Fabrique said.
DC favorite Kim Bey stars as Seacole in this regional premiere.
“She’s absolutely amazing,” Fabrique said. “She does an amazing job.”
Meanwhile, Fabrique plays the ghostly role of Duppy Mary.
“The term ‘duppy’ is a Jamaican cultural reference to a ghost figure,” Fabrique said. “This phantom figure can take any form. It can be an animal, any type of [object] or the person he wanted to enter. The duppy represents his mother, she comes back to settle accounts, to make things clear for all the Marys. … Duppy is quite vocal and has a lot to say.
His ghostly appearance is creatively presented by director Eric Ruffin.
“It’s the most wonderful costume design,” Fabrique said. “Moyenda Kulemeka has given me the most fantastic dress and veil ever. … It’s a beautifully produced piece. There are backgrounds, projections. … There are pieces on the projections that allow you to to see what happens in that period. This game goes from one period to another. … It adds layers.
Born in Harlem, Fabrique sang gospel in New York before discovering theatre.
“I was singing in church and in nightclubs,” Fabrique said. “There was a woman, Rosetta LeNoire, who had Amas Musical Theater on 86th Street in Manhattan, who said to me in her mid-twenties, ‘You should do more theater, honey. You have a voice and a terrific presence’… Once I took his advice and showed up for a few auditions, I never stopped working.
His prolific stage career has included Broadway shows such as “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Bring In The Noise, Bring In The Funk”, “Ragtime”, and “The Glass Menagerie”.
“I’ve done quite a few shows on Broadway,” Fabrique said. “I’ve just been a working actor and I’ve been very lucky and blessed to have some really good things to do.”
She’s Most Proud To Play Ella Fitzgerald In ‘Ella,’ Which Hit Arena Stage In DC
“I love the Washington crowd,” Fabrique said. “I did my Ella Fitzgerald show here and it was just amazing. I played ‘Ella’ in regional theaters for seven years. I found anyone who remembered the voice of Ella Fitzgerald were curious about her as a person, who had memories tied to the wonderful, wonderful song list… they were really into the show.
Yet Fabrique is perhaps best known for singing the theme song for the TV show “Reading Rainbow.”
“I have a grandson and just recently he called me and said, ‘Do you realize, Grandma, that your ‘Reading Rainbow’ [song] is now on TikTok and it’s trending?’ Fabrique said. “I said, ‘Honey, what does that mean?’ Everyone was using my version, which is the original that we did in a small studio no bigger than someone’s bathroom, and it was just three takes and took off.
The show ran from 1983 to 2006, winning a Peabody Award and 26 Daytime Emmy Awards.
“The show has won so many Emmys and done so well,” Fabrique said. “Every time I’ve had a chance to watch it, I’ve always been amazed at how they’ve gotten there and done all these wonderful things to get young people watching this show interested in reading on. … I get all these wonderful messages about how the show, the music made people really happy.
WTOP’s Jason Fraley Premieres “Marys Seacole” (Part 2)
Listen to our full conversation here.