Tuesday October 17th 2017

“The Other Cinderella” 40 years later

 

other-cinderellaRecommended ***  “Cinderella” is a story about dreams coming true and over 40 years ago, a young woman from the “projects” of Chicago, without the aid of a “fairy God-mother” made her dreams a reality. This is the 40th anniversary year of what was named Black Ensemble Theater and that young lady, Ms Jackie Taylor has created not just a theater, but a Cultural Center for the underserved African-American population. This award -winning theater continues to bring reality from dreams for those aspiring to be a part of the arts, and today, I watched the play Jackie started this with still ignite the hearts and souls of many youngsters who attended the opening on her “The Other Cinderella”.

“The Other Cinderella”, a classic holiday( and standard) at Black Ensemble Theater retells the basic story of “Cinderella” with an Afro-American twist. The kingdom is “Other”, a world that is Afro-American and our heroine, like the play’s writer comes from the projects.  Cinderella ( the lovely Jessica Seals who has a great vocal range) is living with her evil Step-mama  (Rhonda Preston, as usual is perfect in this role) and her daughters , Geneva (Melanie McCullough) and Margarite (Miciah Long). As is the usual case, none of these ladies is very nice to the young lady who is supposed to be a part of their family, but instead has become their labor force.becinder4

In the Kingdom of Other, the King (Dwight Neal) and his lovely Queen ( deftly handled by Shari Addison, whose “There Will Come A Day” will knock your sox off) have a son, the Prince ( Mark JP Hood, who many might recognize from “The Voice” does a smooth job) who they desire to marry off. He has no one in mind, so the King declares he will host a Ball where the Prince will select his Princess. All the women in the country are invited, BUT the evil step-mama and her daughters make sure that Cinderella is not. So, as you can see, the story follows the original, but in this production there are some strange twists and turns to get there.

Directed by Ms Taylor along with Rueben Echoles ( who also is involved with the choreography, costume design and wig design), they work with very limited scenery, allowing them to focus on the music and the story. Let’s face it. People come to The Black Ensemble Theater to be “entertained” and to hear the music that brings the soul to every production they do. Yes, they have done a few plays where they invested heavily in scenery, but as I said, the audiences come from far and wide (yes, suburbanites come to the “inner-city”) to hear the music (under the direction of Robert Reddrick) and his Black Ensemble musicians; Danny O’Connor, Herbert Walker and Dolpha Fowley Jr.. They  are powerful! becinder7

The music is what Black Ensemble is all about and in this show, some original works by Ms Taylor make the story move. In their current productions, they use music of the period and of the person the show is about, but what makes this so special is that the young lady with the dream created the songs (with some  by and the music by Michael Ward). This was very “raw” back then, but has become something very special to those who see this show. There are twists, such as the “White” girl, Dorothy (Paige Hauer) from Kansas (why not have her in red slippers?) who feels that she wants to be a part of the Other world. She is given a test which is very funny. The point of this little aside is to show the world that we can all live together, in one world! In fact, the way the play begins is a bit unusual. There are three young men trying to find their seats, yelling to each other and causing some of the audience members to be alarmed that these are kids from the “hood” and may be a danger. This is NOT the case, to be sure. There is a search for a new Page and a raffle. These young men are hoping to have the winning lottery ticket to attain that position. Hokey? To be sure, but these men, Kyle Smith, Brandon Levell and Gregory Slater do add some comic touches to the story, as well as some “rap”.becinder9

Rounding out the cast are Trequon Tate as the attendant to the King ,( he is our “leader” in conveying the story to us, and as it turns out the man who ends up with Dorothy, from Kansas) and the adorable Kylah Frye as the Fairy Godmama, who will light your fire with her energy and talents. As always, Black Ensemble brings a solid musical production to their stage. Most everyone knows that the “book” of their production, if not a biography will be a little unusual, but knowing that up front allows one to know that they are in the building to watch solid talent “do their thing”, which is to entertain and have an audience leave the building with a smile on their face and a song in their heart. When you leave Black Ensemble Theater you will feel as if you had more “soul” and as if any troubles you had on your mind had been swept away. It is the experience and the memory you will own.

 

If you have seen one of the incarnations of “The Other Cinderella” you will love this new version. If you have never seen this show, now is your chance! “The Other Cinderella” will continue thru January 8th with performances as follows:

becinder6Thursdays  7 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3  and 8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $55-$65 and can be purchased at the theater located in the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center at 4450 N. Clark Street, by phone at 773-769-4451 or at www.blackensemble.org

discounts are available for seniors, students and groups.

Indoor valet parking is available

Running time two hours and 28 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Other Cinderella”be-cinder

 

 

Leave a Comment

ITEX.com

More from category

“Billy Elliot, the Musical”
“Billy Elliot, the Musical”

Tonight was a very special one. Porchlight Music Theatre, beginning its 23rd season in Chicago , opened its production [Read More]

“Hard Times”
“Hard Times”

Highly Recommended **** As Lookingglass Theatre embraces its 30 seasons of bringing quality theater to Chicago, they [Read More]

“”The Making of a Modern Folk Hero” reviewed by Carol Moore
“”The Making of a Modern Folk Hero” reviewed by Carol Moore

Recommended **** Other Theatre’s “The Making of a Modern Folk Hero” is a modern cautionary tale, a sharply [Read More]

“Dracula”   The Hypocrites
“Dracula” The Hypocrites

Somewhat Recommended ** Over the years (in fact 20 years), I have watched the work of Sean Graney and his Hypocrites [Read More]

Destinos  -“Growing up Gonzales”
Destinos -“Growing up Gonzales”

Highly Recommended **** The 1st Chicago International Latino Theater Festival is here! Unlike the Goodman Latinofest of [Read More]