By Rueben Echoles
Produced & Directed by Jackie Taylor
Music Director Robert Reddrick
Music arranger Thomas Washington
Choreographer Rueben Echoles
At Black Ensemble Theater
Black Ensemble’s first dance show is a toe-tapping delight
Dancer/actor/choreographer/playwright Rueben Echoles has created a show dedicated to the Nicholas Brothers – considered by many to be the finest dance team of the 20th Century. Their career was over 60 years including vaudeville, dance clubs, Broadway and Hollywood and TV. I remember the Nicholas Brothers in many film musicals from the 30-40’s as well as stints on early live TV. The were fantastic dancers.
Black Ensemble Theater has expanded their repertory to include extensive dancing to their outstanding music and excellent voiced ensemble with Echoles’ fine bio-musical of the Nicholas Brothers. Filled with bouncy swing tunes including one original song “Dance My Brother” by Echoles and Jackie Taylor. Echoles’ script includes much bio info about Fayard and Harold Nicholas. Rueben Echoles plays Harold, the youngest brother while RaShawn Thompson plays Fayard, the older brother and choreographer of the act.
Echolas and Thompson act, sing and dance with verve and enthusiasm. I’ve seen Rueben Echoles dance several times but I was impressed and surprised by the fabulous dance acumen of RaShawn Thompson included the splits made famous Nicholas.
We hear from major influences of the Brothers including Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bo Jangles Robinson in tunes like “It Don’t mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Luck Numbers,” “Jumpin Jive” and “My Kind of Town.” Robert Reddrick’s orchestra sound great with their swing, be-bop and jazz dance tunes.
We also hear from Harold Nicholas’ wife- the famous Dorothy Dandridge (Kylah Williams). The large ensemble deftly landed tunes like “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground.”
Lovers of swing, big bands and tap dancing will enjoy My Brother’s Keeper. Black Ensemble Theater finally has a first rate dance show thanks to the talented Rueben Echoles and the youthful emerging talent of RaShawn Thompson. These two tap, jump and do the splits in an ode to the fabulous Nicholas brothers. This show is fun.
At Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon Street, Chicago, IL, call 773-769-4451, www.blackensembletheater.org, tickets $45, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes, open run.