Saturday August 19th 2017

“One Name Only” ( A Different kind of reality show”

Highly Recommended**** Reality television  has become a huge success in the ratings race and so Black Ensemble Theater has entered the marketplace. Not with a real TV show, but there new production, “One Name Only” is a musical spoof on what “American Idol”, “The Voice” and all the others bring to the viewers. In this brand new show, a sort of departure from what we have learned to expect at BE, written and directed by Rueben Echoles ( who we have watched mature over the years, into a heck of a writer/director/choreographer) takes us into this crazy world of TV Reality shows. We are witness to  a group of women, all wanting to win the $100,000 and recording contract that is the prize for the winner. Echoles introduces us to each with a bit of their back story; the single mother who is about to be evicted from her home, the former Broadway star that is trying to get back into the public’s eye, the young girl who has been raised by her grandparents who is doing this for them, the young bride who wants to have a baby but finds out there are problems at home while she is competing and two cousins, a duo who are forced to compete against each other for this title. We get to watch their struggles and how they overcome them , something that reality tv doesn’t always give us.

For those of you who know the work of Black Ensemble , you are aware that its founder Jackie Taylor has found some amazing voices and the beat goes on as she keeps finding more. What does one do with so much talent, a great deal of it, female?  I would have to day, exactly what they did. Find a way to showcase the wonderful voices and what a perfect way to not only do this, but to pay tribute to some of the greatest of Black female performers, Aretha, Patti, Gladys, Tina and a very special tribute to Whitney Houston ( one cannot help but feel the emotion that the three ladies bring to this set (Lisa Beasley,Candace C. Edwards and Ta-Tynisa Wilson) WOW!. The music is special and most everyone in the audience, White or Black, found themselves clapping their hands and tapping their feel. That is the beauty of Black Ensemble, and integrated audience enjoying the music as one- an audience!

While this is primarily a female production, there are a few of the regulars in the show;  Rashawn Thompson as Sam ( we do get to hear him sing and dance a bit, but as always, he creates a character that oozes charm),Lyle Miller plays the record producer/Simon type character, Brandon Markell Holmes, Terry Francois, and Dwight Neal. The women, Jessica Moore, Katrina V. Miller ( who does a great Gladys Knight),A’rese Emokpae, Deborah Spencer ( April) Lydia F. Brown, Dawn Bless ( handles Grandma and does a perfect Patti La belle ( a standing ovation),Ninah Snipes,and Jerica Exum- each women a delight to the eyes and to the ear. These are voices that would win any competition they entered. I must put a special note in for the hilarity that  Beasley brings to her interpretation of Tanika- what a talented lady!

The orchestra under the direction of Robert Reddrick, s always , is solid- they create the sounds exactly as they should be done. The stage at Black Ensemble is used in a different way for this production with the orchestra behind the players and the upper level used for the “tv show”. There are also side platforms for different locations and some fine furniture and giant screen monitors when the Girls are “in the house”, by David Ferguson. At BE, it is not about the glitz of the set, but it is about the lighting (Denise Karczewski), the sound (Les Spires and Mike Pierce), the costumes (Ruthanne Swanson) and of course the talent assembled on their stage. Once again, Black Ensemble has found a way to entertain that doesn’t make you think- just to enjoy your two plus hours in comfortable seats, with plenty of leg room, watching and listening to music that you love to hear, performed by talented people who love to entertain you!

This being a “reality TV show”, the press notes indicate that the outcome will not be the same at each performance so despite the story being as written, it is possible that those who follow your advice to see this production before it closes, will see a different winner. They may also see some different guest judges as local talent may just appear to take on this challenge. This production is scheduled to continue at Black Ensemble Theater located in their new state of the art theater, 4450 N. Clark Street through November 11th with performances as follows:

Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $55 ($65 on Fridays and saturdays)

Students and seniors- $10 discount- to order your tickets stop by the box office, call 773-769-4451 or go to

To learn more about Black Ensemble visit

There is parking in the area, and they have valet and a lot in their new home.

To see what others are saying, go back to my homepage, click on theatre in chicago tab, go to review round-up and click on “One Name Only”


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