REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

One and Only (A Different Kind of Reality Show)


Written and Directed by Rueban Echolesblack ensemble theater

Music Direction by Robert Reddrick

At Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago

Interesting concept behind reality show inspired musical

Jackie Taylor has given Rueben Echoles the opportunity to write, direct and choreograph a new show for Black Ensemble Theater. Echoles has penned a show that features some new, young females faces. The energy and talent of these woman was quite apparent. Echoles uses the standard BE playbook that utilizes the music of favorite entertainers, here: Aretha Gladys, Tina, Patti with a special tribute to Whitney within the framework of a contest reality show to exhibit the fresh young talent. The result is a story based musical that has us engaged in the process of helping select one winner for the “One Name Only” reality TV show framework.

This world premiere musical uses “guest judges” on a given night to help the two actor/judges and the studio audience pick the winner from the 12 contestants. Dionne Warwick will appear sometime during the run with other local celebs. On opening night, several of the ‘star’ actresses augmented the judges.

by ruben echoles

Blending original tunes, including some by Echoles and Jackie Taylor, with hits by the Ladies of Soul, One Name Only works as a fun, interesting show with the enticing element of suspense as the elimination process and drama unfold. We get to know the final eight girls that accurately represent a nice cross section of want-to-be female singers. The BE recording company will give $100,000 and a 2 CD recording contract to the winner of the TV reality show. The musical dramatizes the angst, emotions, and in-fighting among the women as each strive to dominate. Along the way we hear a fine assortment of soulful tunes. Both the actresses who play the stars, especially Dawn Bless’ frantic rendition of  “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” in her excellent Patti La Belle imitation.

black ensemble theater

Among the young new talents that I was particularly impressed with was Deborah Spencer as April; Lisa Beasley as Tanika; and Candace  C. Edwards as Marylin. The entire ensemble had their moments. The story could use a trim: I’d cut much of the grandparents scenes and I’d cut the number of contestants down by three or so since the show clocks in a 2 hours and 40 minutes. A trimmer show with the same fast pace would be more appreciated. Yet, One Name Only is a fun, often funny,  musical with a workable book and, of course, the fabulous music and singing you’d expect from the Black Ensemble. This show indicates that the Black Ensemble Theater is moving into more sophisticated, book oriented shows without sacrificing their trademarked tribute to the past stars of American-American entertainment. This show is fun and suspenseful with the possibility of different winner at each performance. That is a nice touch.



Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 7, 2012

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the One Name Only page at

At Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call773-769-4451., tickets $55 – $65, Wed & Thur. at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Sat. at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through November 11, 2012


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