for the book/ for the performance. There are times when I view a theatrical production where doing a rating is awkward. In the case of the latest production at Black Ensemble Theater, one of my favorites, “One Hit Wonders” written by Rueben D. Echoles, I was forced to truly think about the rating. The book is not up to the usual high standards of this legendary theatrical company. For the most part, they do shows that are biographies of famous, legends of the Black Musical industry and they tell the story along with the music they either sang or created. This particular story is about a troupe of performers doing a show about the songs that were big hits, but the performers or writers never had another hit, this the title.
The story deals with two brothers, one who wants this to be his move to the top and the other waiting to do his own solo “thing”. For their show they have a solid cast, but have had to bring in their dad ( who is a musician/singer) and their mother to assist with costumes. The parents are divorced, but still very much in love ( along with conflict). In fact, that is one of the major faults of this story far to many conflicts , between these family members, one of the cast members and her abusive husband, a young actress who wants everyone else’s roles, and a choreographer who ends up being beaten during a “gay bashing” incident. Do we really need this story?
In the second act, as the story grows, we do at last get to the wonderful finale the last twenty-eight minutes when they do perform some amazing “one Hit Wonders” and the first thing that came to mind was why not have the entire show be this- why not have two hours of variety numbers that were in fact “One Hit Wonders” performed as this portion was? The opening night audience rocked with this portion and fell in love with the characters and the talent they saw on the stage.
Daryl D. Brooks is solid in his direction, but cannot seem to overcome the book that Echoles wrote to piece these wonderful songs together with. Part of what makes Black Ensemble so special is the heart and soul they put into their productions and the solid talent that is always on their stage. I loved the talent and when they got into the actual show, I was in heaven. Part of what makes the shows at Black Ensemble even more special is the way the audience gets into the story. This is what holds an audience for two hours, but in this case, the weak story almost lost the audience, despite their love for Jackie Taylor and company. Act Two redeems it and makes the drive to 4450 N. Clark Street worth it and the ride home one filled with excitement and positive notes as the brothers end their conflict, the parents get back together, the dancer comes back and it is indeed a happy ending. I would rather know what happened to those who had the “One Hit Wonders:.
A great number of the songs in this show are ones that will surprise you to learn were in fact “One Hit Wonders”, and rather than keep you wondering, I will divulge a few to you: “I Will Survive” , “Hey There Lonely Girl” ( a powerful rendition by Yando Lopez- what a range),” Do You Love Me” and “How Can I Ease The Pain”- plus a host of others. The ensemble is composed of ;Claudia Alexandria Cunningham, Mark J.P.Hood, Allie Jones, Mallory Meedke, Donald Craig Manuel, Ereatha McCullough, Lyle Miller ( who has been around BET for two decades), Kelvin Roston,Jr.,Brittney Thomas Yando Lopez and Ta-Tynisa Wilson. As always the music is spectacular as conducted by Robert Reddrick.
“One Hit Wonders” will continue through June 29th with performances as follows:
Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Running time- two hours with a fifteen minute intermission.
Tickets range from $$55-$65 and can be purchased by calling 773-769-4451 or online at www.blackensemble.org
There are on-street metered spots and enclosed valet garage parking ( $10 in the building)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “One Hit Wonders”