Recommended*** One of the reasons I truly enjoy going to productions at Black Ensemble Theater is that Jackie Taylor and her talented people keep alive the music and memories of the great music of the Jazz and “Blues” days as well as some insight into the Chicago recording scene during those early days. Yes, we all know about “Motown”, but many of us have never really learned about the south loop Chess Records, where many a local Blues star got their start ( and in many cases, their finish). Perhaps, somewhere along the line, some writer will truly research this company an dits recording stars and do a story about what they brought to the scene. Meanwhile,, as a lover of the Blues, I am happy to say that Ms Taylor’s revisiting of the story of Howlin Wolf ( Chester Arthur Burnett) who is once again portrayed by the tall, lanky, highly flexible on the dance floor, Rick Stone. While his singing voice is more Louie Armstrong, his movement and personality are 100% Howling Wolf.
This is a sentimental journey, taking a newer look at his story as told through the eyes of Ms Taylor and director Rueben Echoles. While it is not one of the best scripts ever presented on the stage of the Black Ensemble, the talent that fills the stage is so powerful and the music such a delight, I guess one might say, “Who cares?” The story of this legend is best told through the music itself and the powerful performance of Mr. Stone who has the ability to get the audience into the character and the music. One of the statements made by Stone as Wolf that truly shines through is that as long as his music lives on, his spirit lives on, in our minds and in our hearts. In fact, he tells us that with anyone that we loved or endeared themselves to us during our lives, the same is true- it is up to us to keep that spirit and memory alive in our hearts and if we do, he or she will live on forever! Great thought and great premise for a wonderful story about a man who had many sides, but of greatest importance, a man who made the blues special
Again, while the story of how he met his wife, Lillie ( a wonderful performance by Kylah Williams) and his “arch enemy- legendary Muddy waters ( deftly handled by Dwight Neal) which turned out not to be what it appeared to be- his dealings with young musician Hubert Sumlin ( the always reliable Rashawn Thompson) and a host of other “blues” characters may not be exact as far as history books, but the entire production of two hours is a “blues experience” for those who are into this music and I can guarantee that this cast of stellar performers will have you tapping those feet and “howlin” yourselves!
“Ain’t No Crying the Blues” ( In The Memory of Howlin Wolf) will continue at the NEW Black Ensemble Cultural Center located at 4450 N. Clark Street through August 11th with performances as follows:
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $55- $65 with student and senior discounts available
To order yours , call 773-769-4451 or visit www.blackensemble.org
To see what others are saying, visit www theatreinchicago.com, go to review-round-up and click at “Ain’t No Crying the Blues”