REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Jackie Wilson Story

The Jackie Wilson Story by Jackie Taylor

Produced, written, and Directed by Jackie Taylor

At Black Ensemble Theater, Chicago

Remount of a hit show – The Jackie Wilson Story – opens fabulous new digs for Black Ensemble Theater

Jackie Taylor did it – she got a new nineteen million dollar 299 seat theater built in Uptown! The beautiful and highly functional venue has parking, two theaters and is extremely audience friendly including a large elevator for the balcony. The seats are large and comfortable. The theater space is airy with a thrust stage and large playing area. In short, Black Ensemble Theater’s  new venue at 4450 N. Clark Street is a marvel!

The Jackie Wilson Story at Black Ensemble Theater

It is fitting that Jackie Taylor opens the new space with their mega-hit from 2000, The Jackie Wilson Story. This is a bio-musical about the R & B singer Jackie Wilson who helped move pop music  from Rhythm and Blues into soul.  He recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening  From 1957 through 1970. Wilson wooded audiences with his golden voice and his sexy dance that gave him the name “Mr. Excitement.”

The Jackie Wilson Story at Black Ensemble Theater

Jackie Wilson (1934 – 1980) was honestly portrayed  by Jackie Taylor as a short-tempered womanizer who only lived to sing, drink (and d0 drugs) and have sex. Wilson’s bull-hardheadedness and emotional make up gave him the drive to excite audiences. We  see how the mafia owned and poorly paid Wilson.

Jackie Taylor’s bio of Wilson is filled with toe-tapping tunes performed by Kelvin Roston, Jr. who effectively channels Wilson’s vibrant antics. Roston isn’t as dynamic as Chester Gregory who originated the role of Wilson but he reaches the depths of angst of Wilson effectively and he sings Wilson’s songbook with aplomb.

The Jackie Wilson Story at Black Ensemble TheaterThe Jackie Wilson Story at Black Ensemble Theater

Music director Robert Reddrick’s horn-intense orchestra wildly nails such Wilson tunes such as “Lonely Teardrops,” ” Reet Petite, ” “”(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and smooth songs like “To Be Loved” and “Danny Boy.” Musically, The Jackie Wilson Story is a rollicking good time. Taylor’s book honestly depicts the troubled life of a man who never could overcome his vices.  This show is a fine way for those who have never been to a Black Ensemble show to experience the energy and stage craft and the musical and singer acumen of Black Ensemble’s players. Also, you’ll never be treated more courteously at any venue. Being entertained in a classy new theater and being treated like a special guest marks the memorable experience one can expect as Black Ensemble Theater. Jackie Taylor has set that standard  for years and now she has a fantastic new theater to share with everyone. Take a ride to Uptown to see a first-class musical in a fine new venue. You’ll be greeted like a long lost cousin.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 25, 2011

Jeff  Recommended

For more information, see The Jackie Wilson Story page at

At Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL, call (773) 769-4451,, tickets $49.50 – $65, Wednesdays at 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through January 8, 2012

One thought on “The Jackie Wilson Story

  • Yes, BET is a beautiful. Kudos to Ms. Taylor. I am very careful about where I spend money to entertain my Black parents–everything from the location, thoughtfulness of the staff, and parking accommodations are considered. Ms. Taylor left no stone unturned. My parents had a fabulous time in a beautiful venue
    and were entertained by a five-star production. That means the world to me. As the saying goes, to the world my parents may only be two people, but to me they are the world. Thank you, BET for a night to remember and cherish.

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