By Rueben D. Echoles with Dawn Bless
Directed by Daryl D. Brooks
At Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago
Nostalgic songs book of one hit wonders trumps the weak book
It is refreshing to see Jackie Taylor expand the creative talent at Black Ensemble Theater by giving Rueben D. Echoles, with Dawn Bless a new show to mount. with smart direction by Daryl D. Brooks, One Hit Wonders captures the essence of what audiences expect upon attending a Black Ensemble show: high energy and toe-tapping songs with rich voices.
The concept here is as back stage story of a brother team rehearsing their new show that is a tribute to the one hit wonders from the R & B songbook from the ’60-90’s. We see the brothers and others in the cast arguing as egos clash and cross purposes add conflict to the preparations. Add the parents of the brothers slowly reconciling their past and the story almost betrays the power of this show.
After all, it is titled One Hit Wonders because it contains a fine assortment of past hits that includes blues ballads, catchy R & B with strong anthems. The tunes are the stars here with some terrific voices. Songs like “I Will Survive,” the haunting “Get Here,” “it’s Raining Men,” ‘To be Real,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” ‘What would You do For Love?” and “Hey There Lonely Girl” were featured by a terrific cast. The rock-infused orchestra, under the leadership from Robert Reddrick, deftly produced high energy music that fueled the good time tone of the production.
As usual in a Black Ensemble production, we see a blend of veteran performers with a few new talents. Performers like Lyle Miller, Kevin Roston, Jr. Ereatha McCullough and Donald Craig Manuel strutted their talent with a notable new comer – Yando Lopez an actor with a sweet voice.
One Hit Wonders is a conceit that works despite the weak book. The tunes and the performances overcome the cliche-ridden story but, hey, it’s about the songs. Who knew that many of these famous songs and artists had only one hit? Their legacy is that we still remember their one hit. For some artists, that’s enough.
The talent on stage. the selection of songs equals a good time. But then again, a trip to Black Ensemble Theater always equals a fun, satisfying theatrical experience. Their energy and craft delivers a fine night out.
Talk Theatre in Chic ago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 21, 2014
For more info checkout the One Hit Wonders page at theatreinchicago.com
At Black Ensemble, 4450 N. Clark, Chicago, IL, call 773-769-4451, tickets $55 – $65, Wed & Thurs at 7;30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Sat. at 3 & 8 pm, Sun. at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through June 29, 2014