10 out of 12

Once seated, we continue to watch the crew getting setting up for the play. Only when we hear voices on the headset announcing the start of the tech rehearsal do we realize that the show we came to see is actually starting. We hear constant chatter over our headsets that is idle chatter with techies desiring snacks, gossiping and telling stories to pass the time while the slow process of getting the set located, the props in place plus to lighting and sound cues organized. There are many lag-time delays while the details get are polished and corrections made. Once the actors do some scenes, they need to become familiar with the blocking. That can be difficult since actor’s foibles and even script disagreements surface complicate things.

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The Most Happy Fella

Fella is about love and forgiveness as it plays out in spirited celebrations featuring rich vocals from Roberts, Hernandez and Singleton.The songs offer a fine blend of styles from light comic to lush opera to haunting love songs. Fred Anzevino’s efficient use of the stage at No Exit Cafe contains a polish presentation with energetic choreography, cute comedic bits and stirring emotions come through smartly and flawlessly. Jeremy Ramey’s piano, violin, viola and cello orchestra produced a lush sound.

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The Wiz

Under the skilled theatrical craftsmanship of director Lil-Anne Brown and choreographer Breon Arzell, Kokandy production’s non-Equity production of The Wiz is a fun musical. It is filled with heart and soul as the African-American urbanized retelling of the Oz story is a funky, campy and heartfelt production. Led by the strong voiced and charming Dorothy (Sydney Charles), this adventure is a dance heavy trip to the Emerald City. Steeped in Black urban culture, this winning production is a humorously manic trip.

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Eugene Onegin

Told in three acts and seven scenes and utilizing a stark empty set, Eugene Onegin is filled with Tchaikovsky’s most dramatic music rich in emotions that was effectively sung by this wonderful cast. Besides the wonderful turn by Mariusz Kwiecien, we enjoy fine work by Jill Grove as the nanny Filipyevna with Alisa Kolosova singing Olga beautifully. The Lyric Chorus sounded terrific and Tchaikovsky’s music was nicely conducted by Alejo Perez.

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Gentle

By today’s psychological and social standards the Pawnbroker is—a narcissist—a misogynist—a cruel and autocratic husband! To Dostoevsky—perhaps the same. But there is something more to him, Dostoevsky shows us, as he compassionately winds us through the inchoate abyss of his modern soul—a soul modern psychology and sociology has since imperialized like topographers with signs and calculations and categories

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The Columnist

He was a powerful voice of the Washington Establishment and a close personal friend of president John F. Kennedy who frequently came to Alsop’s home for a drink and advise. He was both beloved and feared as he was a fierce Cold Warrior who coined the term “Domino Theory” to explain the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. During the Vietnam War, Alsop advised Kennedy to fight the Viet Cong fiercely. But as the 60’s dawn and after Kennedy is assassinated, Alsop suffers as America undergoes dizzying change that catches Alsop becoming embroiled both politically and personally.

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Carmen – 2017- Lyric Opera of Chicago

The story revolves around a Spanish gypsy (the wild free-loving Carmen, played seductively by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova) and the man she takes as a lover, a Spanish corporal, Don José (The powerful tenor Joseph Calleja). He is an upright but flawed man, with a mother and would-be fiancée in his home village; quick to temper and impulsive, when he shirks the advances of the beautiful gypsy, she finds him irresistible and throws a rose at him, striking him between the eyes. Having bewitched him, Carmen convinces Don José to go to prison in her stead; upon his release, he finds her, and she wants to run away together.

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My Brothers Keeper – The Story of the Nicholas Brothers

Kudos to Rueben D. Echoles for creating such a wonderful, groundbreaking. bio-musical!. As the book writer, director and one of two outstanding actor/dancers (he plays Harold Nicholas) Echoles’ has created one of the best shows ever at the Black Ensemble Theater. Besides writing, directing, costumes, choreography, he wrote eight original songs that were fine show-specific tunes. Add Echolas’ terrific dancing and this show is truly Echoles’ opus!.

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