Directed by Jackie Taylor & Daryl Brooks
At Black Ensemble Theater Chicago
Soulful blues musical more of a revue than a book musical
Joe Plummer’s light motif to fuel 18 haunting blues tunes revolves around the story of Theresa’s Lounge that existed in Chicago’s South Side from 1954 to 1983. Theresa’s Lounge was a small basement blues club that showcases blues legends like Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Black Ensemble Theater pays homage to her and the distinct Chicago blues sound by playing a nice assortment of blues including original blues tunes by Jackie Taylor (“Nothin But the Blues,” “Believe In Yourself ” and “Pick Yo’ Ass Up.”)
We heard blues songs from Ray Charles, BB King and Willie Dixon among others. Indeed, the tunes are the real stars in this entertaining musical. Rhonda Preston is dynamic as Theresa Needham the lounges’ owner. Trinity Murdock, as Will, the doorman together with regulars like Old Man Washburn (the iconic Rick Stone), Lyle Miller as the Drunk Lewis and Kelvin Roston, Jr. as the Mailman Tate each have their moments and each sing the blues in their heartfelt way. “You have to live the blues in order to sing the blues.” Young Lawrence Williams realizes that as Kenny the Kid when he auditions to become a regular at Theresa’s.
We get glimpses into the lives of the regulars as their lives influence their angst that fuels their emotions that is expressed by singing the blues. Blues fans will love this show, I know I did. There is nothing like Chicago-styled blues. Music director Robert Reddrick deftly has his blues band creating the rich blues in fine rhythms. A few sound problems made some of the early dialect hard to understand but the music soared. This show is pure soulful music.
At Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon Street, Chicago, IL, call773-769-4451, www.blackensembletheater.org, tickets $45, Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.