Recommended *** There are times that I find it difficult to stay with the rating system that I have been using for these many years. The reason is simple! There are times when the talent in a show far outweighs the actual content of the show. When I do a review, part of what I am telling you, my audience/readers in both the newspapers where you are seeing this or here on my website is whether or not will get enjoyment from the experience that this particular production brings. Also, if there is a value for you in what the tickets cost. Now that I have said this, let me go on to advise you about the latest offering of one of my favorite ensembles, Black Ensemble Theater, the “gem” of Uptown.
The name of the show is “Sounds So Sweet” and the rating that I am giving this as to the great music and wonderful delivery of this music of the 60’s and beyond is Highly Recommended *****. As to the script penned by Rueben Echoles as well as some of the musical choices, I can only give it a Somewhat Recommended **.
Here is the story. The Harris family’s Matriarch has passed away and the family is gathering in their family home to pay tribute and prepare her “going to Heaven celebration”! The notes tell us that the story will include music from “Girl Groups” spanning several decades, featuring music of Destiny’s Child, En Vogue, The Shirelles, The Supremes and even The Andrew Sisters. They also get into individuals who were part of groups and then went off on their own. The trouble is, the show veers into different directions which distracts from the wonderful sounds that this talented cast brings to the stage of The Black Ensemble. Maybe they should begin doing readings of the scripts prior to taking them into production. It couldn’t hurt!
While the story is filled with hope and promise, as most of their productions are, we even get to see some inter-racial love stories in this one and watch as our players overcome the obstacles that have been placed before them on their path to their futures. Let me say this! I love this theater! I love what Jackie Taylor has built on Clark Street and her ability to keep finding great talent (now, I can even say, both Black and White). This is still an amazing company and a place that I feel should be on everyone in Chicago’s list as a place to go. You too, suburbanites. It is always worth the trip.
Let me tell you about some of the talent in this show: Yahdina U-Deen, Dawn Bless, who as always knocks it out of the park, Rhonda Preston, another regular who brings something special to every role she plays, Melanie McCullough, Casey Hayes (a newcomer to this company), Mark J.P.Hood, Daniel Phillips, Nicole Michelle Haskins,, Ti Nicole Dandridge, Jessica Brooke Seals, Cherise Thomas, Renelle Nicole and newcomer Paige Hauer. Voices that are worth the price of the ticket.
Songs you will hear: “Mr. Lee”, “Maybe”, “He’s So Fine”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Survivor”, “This is Dedicated to The One I Love”, “We Are Family”, “Chapel of Love”, “Tell Him” and a spine tingling “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (how did a Rodgers & Hammerstein number get into a Black Ensemble show?) and many others. I told you- great music, great voices, but a weak script. In all two hours and forty minutes (with a 15 minute intermission)
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets range from $55-$65 and are available at the box office, by phone at 773-769-4451 or online at www.blackensemble.org
10% discount for students, seniors and groups.
Valet indoor parking is available as well as street parking, some metered, some not. If you come on a Cubs night game date, I suggest you sue the indoor garage as parking on the street will be at a premium.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Sounds So Sweet”