Highly Recommended **** Black Ensemble Theater is celebrating 40 years of bringing quality musicals and stories that include Black History with music to Chicago. For this year of celebration, they are bringing back some of the stories they have previously told. In many cases, these stories were told during the early years in their old venue. Now on the new stage in their new building, these stories may look different. Not to mention some of the new talent Artistic Director and founder Jackie Taylor continues to find and nurture. She is an amazing talent and humanitarian, who brought herself from the “projects” to this special place in the theater world of Chicago. Bravo and congratulations to Ms Jackie Taylor. May we celebrate her 50th year together too.
The current production is called “Doo Wop Shoo Bop” which takes a look at the era called “Doo Wop”, otherwise the 1950’s and before. Groups such at The Platters, The Drifters, The Spaniels, The Bobbettes- Music such as “Only You”, “I’m Walkin’ “, “Paper Doll”, “In The Still of the Night”, “Sh-Boom”, “Dedicated to the One I Love”, ” The Ten Commandments of Love”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “Yakety Yak” and so many others. The reason that I also placed this wonderful show at Cabaret as well as Theater is that this show might truly be classified as a Revue or cabaret evening. It is not a “book” show, although it does tell a story.
The story is relative to a time of segregation and how music allowed for integration earlier than the rest of the world, although many of the record companies and publishers took the music created by African -Americans and used them to make dollars from the White audiences who loved the music. The creators, to this day, in some cases, have yet to see the earnings that should have been theirs. This is hard to swallow as we watch the talented cast bring these great songs to life. This production truly explores how the successful music we hear today is related to the magical period known as “Doo Wop” that brought the 1950’s into the 21st Century.
Featured in this production are RaShawn Thompson (who many of us have watched grow from young bright newcomer to solid performer on this stage), Melanie McCullough, Kyle Smith ( old rubber legs , himself- what a dancer!), Shari Addison( who does Aretha as if she were Aretha) , Jessica Seals, the amazingly energetic David Simmons, Direoce Junirs and the adorable Kylah Fry. The program is a little confusing as this particular production is running in repertory with another audience favorite, “Those Sensational Soulful ’60s” where all of these actors/singers/dancer are performing with the exception of Mr. Junirs, who is replaced by Theo Huff and Kenny Davis.
Robert Reddrick and his musicians as always are up to the task that is put before them by Ms. Taylor, who created this show along with Jimmy Tillman. As always, the sets (Coco Ree Lemery) are simple. The music is what it is all about! But to make the shows what they are, it is the costumes (Ruth Ann Swanson), lighting (Denise Karczewski), sound (Aaron Quick). There were some problems with the body mikes in a few spots, but tech problems are quickly handled with no break in the action, thus for two hours and 10 minutes, the Black Ensemble Theater was filled with the great music of the “Doo Wop” era.
These two shows will run through March 20th with performances as follows: DOO WOP SHOO BOB
Saturdays 3 p.m.
Sunday 3 p.m.
If you are planning to see both in one day, it is only possible on a Saturday. There would be a 2 1/2 hour break and there are some places to eat in walking distance from the theater.
Tickets range from $55 to $65 and are available by calling 773-769-4451 or visiting www.blackensemble.org
Students and seniors get a 10% discount. There is enclosed valet parking for $10, as well as some street parking in the area. The Black Ensemble Theater is located at 4450 N. Clark Street ( just North of Montrose Avenue)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com. Go to Review Round-Up and click at “Doo Wop Shoo Bop”