The unwanted product of violence — her mother was raped at knifepoint when only 12 — Ethel Waters grew up in the slums of Philadelphia during the early 1900s. She ran with a rough street crowd and developed a hustler's sassy attitude. By the time she fled her own abusive marriage at just 14, she had a soulful singing voice that would draw attention at parties. Soon after, Waters was singing the blues onstage to appreciative crowds while living the rough life of touring on the black vaudeville circuit; eventually she became the highest-paid black recording star in the country, the first female black singer to be heard on radio and, later, the highest-paid female performer on Broadway. She brought the house down at New York's Cotton Club singing “Stormy Weather” and won a Grammy Award in 1933. Waters was the second black performer to be nominated for an Academy Award, for her performance in Pinky (1949). ValLimar Jansen brings Waters' distinguished career to the stage with a fine jazz trio, accompanied by husband Frank Jansen on keyboards. Wearing glittering gowns and feathered headdresses, ValLimar wraps merry humor and an indomitable spirit around her engaging performance as she skips and shimmies her way through 16 classic blues songs, and her mellifluous, full-bodied voice has the depth of strong coffee. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 31. (866) 811-41111, fremontcentretheatre.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Nov. 26. Continues through Jan. 2, 2010
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