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Elizabeth Harvey is both the real life and stage mother in "Livin' in the Light"



The life story of local gospel singer Cora Harvey Armstrong is at the core of "Livin' in the Light." And it's not only Cora who tells it: The show also features her sisters, Clara Harvey and Virginia Harvey Young, niece, Clarissa Jackson, two close friends, Marcellus Dungee and Jerone Davis, and mother, Elizabeth Harvey. This same ensemble also makes up Cora's gospel band, Full Deliverance.

Elizabeth, the family matriarch, is a newcomer to the stage. "This is the first time I've ever been in a play of any kind in my life … and I was scared to death," she says. But she has been singing for as many of her 72 years as she can recall — as have Cora and her sisters. The girls began singing as "little tots," Elizabeth recalls. "When they started, they started singing in harmony. Believe it or not, they did."

It took Elizabeth six years of trying before Cora, her first, was born in 1956. The other girls followed quickly: Clara in 1957 and Virginia in 1958. By the time the girls were 3, 4 and 5, they toured with their mother to area churches to perform gospel music. They have continued singing together throughout their lives and have performed as Full Deliverance for about 10 years now.

Elizabeth says it's been surprising to hear her daughter's story laid bare in the play. "I'm finding out things I never knew before," she says. "Thank God she got through it and came out OK."

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