‘Legends the Musical: A Civil Rights Movement Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’
Jackie Taylor, the amiable creative heart and soul of Chicago’s beloved Black Ensemble Theater, has declared 2020 as the company’s Season of Change. She opens with this original, ambitious, musical battle cry, a movement against the injustice and bigotry that’s overtaking our country today thanks to an administration that has set our country back 200 years.
And this is just the beginning of Taylor’s aggressive theatrical approach to helping combat the racism that’s reared its ugly head in America.
“You Can’t Fake the Funk (A Journey Through Funk Music)” presented by Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater works hard to “turn this mutha out.”
“There’s a whole lot of rhythm goin’ round” in this energetic performance written and directed by the company’s own producing and managing director, Daryl D. Brooks.
The journey through the history of funk is hosted by Dwight Neal as Dr. Funk and takes place aboard the “Mothership,” an allusion to George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic’s 1975 platinum album “Mothership Connection.”
Clinton actually incorporated a spaceship as part of the scenery into his concerts but BET’s homage does not do it justice and Denise Karczewski’s lighting didn’t do too much to help, particularly if you consider the lighting effects prominent in the disco style shows of this time.
The good news for theater-goers is that Chicagoland has an amazing number of production companies so that a Jeff award worthy show is likely to be on stage at any time during the season. The annual Jeff awards are Chicago’s answer to New York’s Tony’s. The “bad” news is that because there are about 250 companies,including more than 20 in just the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago’s northeast side, it’s hard to keep track of what will be where and when.
Chicago Theater and Arts puts out a yearly preseason sneak-peek series of already decided shows, divided by area. Categories such as themes and holiday fare will shortly follow.
After looking at “ Coming next theater season on the North Side,” which is Part 5 in the series, be sure to go back to see what theaters listed earlier are doing. It looks like a great 2019-20 Chicago theater season.
AstonRep has moved to The Edge Theare, 5451 N. Broadway. It opens with “Equua” Sept. 27 through Oct. 27, 2019. It’s spring show is the Chicago premiere of “When We Were Young and Unafraid,” April 9 through May 10, 2020. For tickets and information visit AstonRep.
Located at 4450 N Clark St., Black Ensemble is doing “You Can’t Fake the Funk,” July 26 through Sept 22. Rest of the season TBA. For tickers and other information call (773) 769-4451 and visit Black Ensemble Theater.
The venue, located at 1623 W. Howard. St., starts the 2019-20 season with “Oh Sh#t! It’s Haunted!” Sept 17 through Nov. 9 2019. It continues in 2020 with “Last Night in Karaoke Town,” Feb. 14 through Mar. 28. the summer show is “The HOA” June 12 through July 25.
Performances are at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge Avenue. The companywill be doing the world premiere of “Out of Love” Aug. 16-Sept. 14. The season also includes “Here Lies Henry” and “Sexbot.” For tickets and other information visit Interrobang Theatre Project.
The theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave. is currently doing “Emma,” extended through July 28, 2019. Whose Body?, Sept. 6 through Oct. 27, 2019. In 2020 “Middle Passage” will be on stage from Feb. 14 through April 5, followed by the world premiere rock musical “LOKI, The End of the World Tour.”
The venue is at 4139 N. Broadway . Currently at the Center are “Afterglow” extended through Aug. 28. “All That He Was” Aug. 10 through Aug. 31. “Casa Valentina’ Aug 31 through Sept. 29. “A Man of No Importance’” (TBA October + dates).
For tickets and more information visit Pride Films and Plays.
Located at 6157 N. Clark St., Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of “Sundown Yellow Moon”, Oct. 3 through Nov. r 17, followed by “Hoodo Love,” Oct. 31 – Dec. 15, 2019. The season continues in 2020 with Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House “ Feb. 6 through Mar. 22 and ends with the world Premiere of “Eden Prarie 1971,” May 7 through June 21.
For tickets and other information call (773) 338-2177 and visit Raven Theatre
The theatre, located at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., is currently doing “King Lear” through Aug. 4. Then, “Keely and Du” are Oct, 9 through Nov. 10 followed by “Death Tax,” Dec 11, 2019 through Jan. 19, 2020. “Rabbit Summer” is Feb. 19 through Mar. 22 and “The Country Girl” is May 13 through June 21. “The Pride” ends the season May 28 through June 28.
For tickets and other information call (773) 728-7529 and visit Redtwist.
Located at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., the ensemble’s 2018-19 season concludes July 21 with “something Clean” performed at Voctory Gardens (see is Sneak Peek Part Three. For tickets and other information call (773) 334-7728 and visit Rivendell Theatre.
With everything you have to do, places to go, people to visit there might not have been time to fit in everything you hoped to see by Dec. 31. No worries. Some of the fun shows, exhibits and festivals will still be around in January, 2019.
Lyric Opera’s delightful “Cendrillon” (Cinderella ) runs through Jan. 20 and its exceptional “La boheme” continues at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Jan. 31. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera.
“Steadfast tin Soldier at Lookinggglass Theatre in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N. Michicagn Ave. runs through Jan. 13. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.
“Wonderland Express” is at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe (just east of Edens Expressway) through Jan. 6. (This is a time and date ticketed show) For tickets and other information visit . For parking check Chicago Botanic.
“Zoo Lights” at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St.,, Chicago, is open New Year’s Day and continues through Jan. 6.
The Black Ensemble Theater, founded in 1976 by Jackie Taylor, has been dazzling audiences ever since with original musicals. Its current production, “Women of Soul,” written and directed by Associate Director Daryl D. Brooks, is a tribute to many powerful female singers who cover different genres and numerous years.
The female cast includes Cynthia Carter, Robin DaSilva, Hannah Efsits, Jerica Exum, Colleen Perry, Rhonda Preston, Jessica Seals, Ariel Williams and Jayla Williams-Craig.
These nine talented women —with one wonderful male cast member, Dwight Neal who plays their various partners—portray well over fourteen famous soulful singers.
The production also includes these fabulous musicians: Robert Reddrick, Adam Sherrod, Gary Baker, Mark Miller and Dolpha S. Fowler.
Cast members give the background of each of the well-known singers plus some newly-revealed details such as how their careers blossomed and how some of their lives unfortunately ended. Then the singer portrayed performs one of her hits.
From Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World,” Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” and Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” to Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be An Everlasting Love,” the fabulous cast practically rocks people out of their seats.
An amazing salute to female vocalists, the production also includes hits of Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Janet Jackson, Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, Chaka Khan and more.
The musical ends with a medley of songs giving tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, with “Ain’t No Way,” ” I Say a Little Prayer for You,” ” Respect” and “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.”
When the cast lined up in the lobby while audience members were leaving the theater, two statements came from my heart: their performances were fabulous and the closing tribute to Aretha Franklin brought joyful tears to my eyes. “Women of Soul” celebrates all women!
DETAILS: “Women of Soul” is at the Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark St., Chicago, through Jan. 27, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 769-4451 or visit Black Ensemble Theater.