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At Last: A Tribute to Etta James & Fundraiser

September 4, 2020 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm

$50 – $100

Middletown native and accomplished vocalist, Dr. Marlena Smalls, returns home to Middletown, Ohio for a one-night show and fundraiser featuring the songs and sounds of Etta James. This is a special fundraising show for an exciting, new event celebrating ALL music in September, the Middletown Music Festival. Join us for a night of smooth jazz and soulful, gutsy blues featuring one of Middletown’s own. With the incredible ambiance and acoustics of the beautiful Sorg Opera House, this will be one performance you don’t want to miss!

In addition to being a world-traveling vocalist, Dr. Smalls was also featured on the big screen of the multi-award winning movie “Forrest Gump” as Bubba Gump’s momma. Be sure to join us for the special Gump “Shrimp Cocktail” Hour before the show across the street at The Windamere, a historic and beautiful event venue. This cocktail hour will include shrimp and higher end finger foods as well as a complimentary drink, paying homage to the legendary film. Artwork and auctions will be available. All funds will go towards the Middletown Music Festival held in Downtown Middletown, 9/12/20.

Marlena Smalls, a native of Middletown, Ohio, is a versatile and dynamic entertainer, educator, singer and actress. She began singing at an early age and furthered her formal education at Central State University. As a vocalist and lecturer, Marlena ventures into the early history of musical genres such as South Carolina Sea Island plantation melodies, as well as gospel, jazz, and blues. Her educational programs, developed specifically for schools, include diversity training, lectures, musical instruction through public school system S.T.E.M summer programs and Gullah storytelling.

In 1985, Marlena founded the Gullah Festival of Beaufort, South Carolina and in 1990, she formed the internationally known Hallelujah Singers to preserve the Gullah culture of the South Carolina Sea islands. Marlena gained further acclaim when she was introduced as Bubba’s Momma in the Academy Award winning movie Forest Gump. In addition, she also worked with Academy Award winners Tom Hanks, Demi Moore and Glen Close.

Throughout her career, she has performed for many U.S. and international dignitaries, which includes the Queen of England, U.S. Presidents William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush, World Leaders of the G-8 Summit and members of the South Carolina State Legislature. Her notable performances have landed her on renowned stages such as the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, the Spoleto Festival, and En el Jazz Voyeur Festival, Auditorium de Palma deMallorca. Her many honors awarded include the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, South Carolina Ambassador of Tourism, South Carolina Folk Heritage Advocacy Award, Rockford Mayor’s Award, and an Honorary Doctorate Degree-Ph.D. in Music from the University of South Carolina.

Come and experience a tribute to Etta James and the gusty sounds of the blues to the melodic smoothness of jazz and an all-around journey through American Music.


September 4, 2020
8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
$50 – $100
Event Category:


Sorg Opera House
63 S. Main St
Middletown, OH 45044 United States