Saturday August 19th 2017

“The Marvin Gaye Story(Don’t Talk About My Father Because God is My Friend)”

Highly Recommended****For decades, Black Ensemble Theater, under the leadership of Jackie Taylor ( who has devoted her life to making this theater one that brings great talent to Chicago’s theater audiences) has brought us wonderful biographies of famous Black music stars. Now in their new , and glorious building on Clark Street in Uptown, they are bringing to us, a story ( a world premiere) of “The Marvin Gaye Story”, depicting the rise and fall of one of Motwon’s greatest talents. His sound began in the 50’s with Doo Wop and then matured to Rhythm and Blues into the 60’s and then, during the 70’s became very political and ended in the 80’s with “Soul”.

Music is pretty much what Black Ensemble is all about! Ms Taylor finds great talent and selects the best musicians to bring to life on her stage, and if you were to ask those in the audience why they visit Black Ensemble Theater on a regular basis, the response you are sure to hear is the great music and the wonderful talent. In addition, we learn more about the music makers of history, in many cases, clearing up some of the stories that we have heard over the years.

The “stable” of players that perform at Black Ensemble are solid voices that move well and can act. Many of them have been around for many years and we the return audiences have watched them mature in talent and ability. Marvin Gaye is played by Rashawn Thompson, who we have watched over the last 12 years go from ensemble member to star and watching him take on this difficult role just shows how much talent Ms. Taylor has drawn from him. The cast in this production, veterans and newcomers are all powerful singers with lots of energy making this a special performance for audiences of all ages and ethnicity’s.

Many of us were unaware of the entire story of what happened to Gaye- He grew up in an unhealthy environment, with a father who hated him and abused him. Marvin Senior ( played by BE regular Donald Barnes) a sit turns out was himself abused as a child and turned to the lord for his relief. But, he never achieved any success in anything and so he took it out on his family. Jealous of the talent of his son and the care that his wife ( Yahdina U-Deen who does an unbelievable job as Alberta) had for the children made him even more miserable, spending most of his time with a bottle locked away from life around him. Her rendition of “Oh My God” near the end of the play is an earth shattering song that will send chills up your spine and woth the rpice of the ticket alone!

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “Let’s Get It On”, “Sexual Healing” and more of Gaye’s music and recordings make this production one that audiences will adore, and when “Distant Lover” is done on a bare stage by Thompson, playing the female audience members, we can all feel the love and emotion that this man and his music created years ago and how it lives on, even after his father shot him in 1984. Yes, it is a history lesson about a many and his music, but of greater importance, it is a tribute to Gaye’s music despite the dysfunctional life he led and with the power of Ms. Taylor’s pen and the talent she has put on her stage; Lawrence Williams,Rueben D.Echoles,Melanie McCoullough,Lyle Miller,Rashad Hall,Dawn Bless,Stori Johnson, Katrina V. Miller,Cory Andre’ Wright,A’rese Emokpee and Lisa Beasley and the great music played by Robert Reddrick and his orchestra ( what a group of musicians), we are privileged to get exactly what we expect at this venue:

Great music brought to us by solid talent with a little history on the side! Thank you Ms taylor for another theatrical experience on your new stage ( te air conditioning was soooo delighful!). “The Marvin Gaye Story” will continue at The Black Ensemble Theater located at  4450 N. Clark Street through July 29th with performances as follows:

Wednesday and Thursday  7:30 p.m.,Friday at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

A note: 3 p.m. on a Sunday is a perfect time for a show, leaving time for family and Church in the morning and a nice dinner after the show, but somehow, audience members do not understand that 3 p.m. IS 3 p.m. and many people strolled in closer to 4, which causes them to miss some marvelous music, the story as it is being told and is unfair to other audience members who are being disturbed and missing some action- also, the performers, in an intimate theater such as BE see you coming in late and this could have an impact on their performance- read your ticket, get their early so you can park your car and have a pre-theater drink. It makes the experience far better, for you and others.

Tickets range from $55-$65 ( 10% off for students and seniors) and are available by calling 773-769-4451 or at

Valet parking is available and there is plenty of street parking, some metered, some not ( so pay attention to the signs).


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