Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“The Other Cinderella”

Highly Recommended**** It is hard to believe that it was 1976 when Jackie Taylor’s Black Ensemble Theater premiered her musical, “The Other Cinderella”, her version of the classic story that deals with hope, love and the importance in believing in one’s self. In Taylor’s version, we are in the Kingdom of Other!, where all are welcome and the story has a lot more “soul” with music and comedy for everyone. Ms Taylor herself was the original Cinderella ( now played with great vocal range by Ta-Tynisa Wilson. The basic story remains that The king ( Dwight Neal) and The Queen (Rhonda Preston) want to see their son, The Prince ( deftly handled by Lawrence Williams) married, so they are arranging a Ball, where every woman in the Kingdom can be met an done selected.

As in the original Cinderella resides with her Step-Momma ( the incredible Dawn Bless, a postal employee) and her step sisters, Margarite ( the comic Lisa Beasley) and Geneva ( Jessica Moore) who are “do-nuttins”, living off the fat of the land while Cinderella toils from day to night. While they are all intent on attending the Ball, Cinderella is left behind. Now, enters the Fairy God-mama ( energetic and bubbly A’reses Emokpae) who sends her off in Limo with driver and fixes her hair, adorns her in a lovely dress and some very chic slippers ( no mention of glass, but a whole lot of class). Her instructions are to be back , on the way home by 11:45 ( there is a joke here about African-Americans and being on time) instead of midnight.                           

The basic story is the same, the Prince finds her and they live happily ever after and she allows her step-family to live in her castle but with some rules that will change their lives and give her just a tinge of revenge. The music is fun, the choreography is sweet and the cast of players, as always at Black Ensemble Theater a powerful force in telling a story with “soul”!. There are some strange twists to even previous productions. This show has a wonderful portrayal of Dorothy ( from the Wizard of Oz) who wants very much to leave Kansas and move to the Kingdom of Other, seeking a new lifestyle. They give her a test in order for her to make this move- a test that deals with Jazz, southern cooking, soul music and some pretty heavy African-American Style dance. Erin O’Shea takes on all the challenges and truly shows her stuff! While this has nothing to do with the original story, I can see that Ms Wilson interspersed this to show that all races can live together in peace and harmony learning to accept each other’s “stuff”. For me it worked !

The kids from The “hood” that start the show off from the audience are playful and fun. As the lights go down, they come into the audience, casual, “late” and wearing “hoodies” of all colors. They are townspeople in attendance to see if one of them wins the lottery for the opportunity to be a page for the King. Raymond Wise (a newcomer to BET- how does Jackie continue to find such talent? who I am sure we will see for many years to come). His cohorts are Brandon Markell Holmes, Alyssa Zopp, Malcolm Thompson and Rueben Echoles ( who is also the Associate Director of BET and has written, directed and choreographed their shows over the years. Even his speech for their constant plea for money is one that is casual, funny and in great spirits.

Yes, Black Ensemble Theater does have a new home, probably one of the finest facilities in the Chicago area, but theater and its programs cost more money than they take in for the most part, so ticket sales are only a portion of what it takes to continue bringing the high quality Chicago audiences expect and want, so I understand their need to ask. After all, it is only a request that allows you to make the choice. They have been bringing us quality for many years an done of the highlights of attending a Black Ensemble Theater production, besides the great music of Robert Reddrick and his musicians is the audience assembled. It is not what one might expect in a theater named BLACK ENSEMBLE THEATER, but rathe a sprinkling of all etnicities enjoying music, laughter and storytelling together. What a wonderful feeling ! And for Jackie taylor, her dreams come true. While this show will return in 2014, there is still time to catch this sterlng production- it will run through  January 13th with performances as follows:

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

The new and marvelous Black Ensemble Theater building is located at 4450 N. Clark Street ( a block north of Montrose)

Tickets are $55 and $65 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-769-4451 or online at www.ticketmaster.com

Students and seniors get 10% off on their tickets

To learn more about the theater and its upcoming season, visit www.BlackEnsembleTheater.org


There is some free street parking, some metered ( til 9 p.m.) and valet parking/garage next door.

To see what others said, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “The Other Cinderella”

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