Tambourines to Glory

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Tambourines to Glory is a gospel play with music by Langston Hughes. It tells the story of two female street preachers who open a storefront church in Harlem. The play premiered on Broadway in 1963.


Hughes began writing Tambourines to Glory: A Play with Songs in July 1956,[1] and later that year turned it into a novel, which was published by John Day in 1958.[2]


The play opened on Broadway at the Little Theatre November 2, 1963 and closed on November 23, 1963. The playbill for the 1963 premiere makes reference to the "gospel singing play" being adapted from Hughes' novel.[3]

The musical was generally well-received but generated some criticism from certain segments of the black intelligentsia, who felt that the themes of corruption and hyprocrisy mocked the black church. Howard Taubman, in his review in The New York Times wrote: "The leading players are supported by an ensemble overflowing with energy and a zest for song. Like their play, they'd all be more usefully employed if they had more gospel songs to sing and less story to tell." [4]

The opening night cast featured a who's who of African-American performers, including:

Attles, Grant and King teamed up the following year in Hughes's Jericho-Jim Crow; over time Grant received three Tony Award nominations for her writing. Gossett became a major film star, Guillaume achieved fame in the television series Soap and Benson, Merritt starred in The Wiz and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and the television series That's My Mama.


  1. ^ Dolan Hubbard, Introduction to The Novels: Not without Laughter and Tambourines to Glory, The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Vol. 4, University of Missouri Press, 2001, p. 7.
  2. ^ Gilbert Millstein. "Laura and Essie Belle" (book review of Tambourines to Glory), The New York Times, November 23, 1958
  3. ^ "Inside the Playbill: Tambourines to Glory - Opening Night at Little Theatre", Playbill Vault
  4. ^ Taubman, Howard. "Theater: Tambourines: 'Gospel Singing Play' is at Little Theater". The New York Times, November 4, 1963, p. 46

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