Theater Review: Jackie Taylor’s new theater complex opens with ‘The Jackie Wilson Story’

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Jackie Taylor’s new Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center is a dream realized.

After so many years at the Beacon Street location, the elegant space on North Clark Street incorporates the very latest in technology and audience comfort.

The configuration of the new space is similar to the old theater, but much more spacious. Our seats brought back memories of the many times Julian and I attended so many of Jackie’s spectacular shows.

The choice of The Jackie Wilson Story is perfect. Based on the life of the famous entertainer, the original staging here went on to New York and received rave reviews. The current production, starring Kelvin Roston Jr., is superb.

Jackie’s ability to tell the musical story of black stars continues, and Robert Reddick, music director, drummer and arranger, makes it all possible. He has been with the company for more than 20 years, and the technical staff are also experienced professionals.

The show is a high-energy production. Roston’s vocals and breathtaking dance numbers keep the audience riveted on the stage. Having seen him in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Court Theatre, and in Ruined at the Goodman, I looked forward to this show.

Melanie McCullough is Freida, Jackie’s wife, who suffers the consequences of a talented husband, constantly on the road. Dawn Bless is Eliza Mae, his adoring mother, who forgives every mistake. The equally-talented ensemble backs the three stars admirably.

The Jackie Wilson Story runs through March 18, followed by The Prophet (The Marvin Gaye Tribute), Luther, One Name Only (A Tribute to the Ladies of Soul), and Ladies and Gentlemen — James Brown. 2011-2012 is the Legendary Season of Rhythm & Blues. It couldn’t be more aptly named.

For more details, call Black Ensemble Theater at (773) 769-4451. You will have an unforgettable theater experience.

From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue

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