Chicago Theatre Review
Memories Are Made of These
Doo Wop Shoo Bop – Black Ensemble
For those who lived through the 2nd millennium, the 1950’s was a decade remembered historically as the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold and Korean Wars. The Suez Crisis, the beginning of the Race for Space and the launch of Sputnik were part of those years. In the United States was the era of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and Alaska and Hawaii became our 49th and 50th states.
On the cultural front, music was shifting from the jazz-oriented big band sound to a new beat aimed, for the first time, at the teenage market. Growing prosperity in America meant that youngsters didn’t have to grow up as fast and could enjoy simply being kids. Pop music was suddenly overtaken by a new sound called rock-and-roll. Soon, thanks to the artists of the Harlem Hit Parade, there emerged the African American style of popular music labeled rhythm and blues, bebop and the intricate vocal harmonies of doo-wop. Gospel music called Soul became popular and singing divas and vocal groups, both male and female, rose up to the top of the music charts.
Black Ensemble Theater, under the leadership and guidance of the indefatigable Jackie Taylor, is celebrating their 40th anniversary this season. To commemorate the occasion, the company is reviving some of their most popular hit shows. “Doo Wop Shoo Bop” is one of these much-welcome remounts. Ms. Taylor takes audiences, especially of a certain age, on a joyful stroll down memory lane. During the two-hour revue, the talented cast of six men and four women recall so many of the great songs, as well as the talented singers and vocal groups who made them popular.
We’re treated to talents of this ensemble cast skillfully portraying the likes of Ruth Brown charming us with “Please Send Me Someone to Love” and “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” as well as Dinah Washington purring through “This Bitter Earth.” We’re blessed with the Spaniels singing “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight,” the Platters with “Only You” and a medley consisting of “The Great Pretender, “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” We hear the Flamingos crooning “I Only Have Eyes for You,” the El Dorados rocking “At My Front Door (Crazy Little Mama),” the Chantels turning up the sexy with “Maybe.” Shep and the Limelites assure us that “Daddy’s Home,” the Shirelles treat us to their glorious hit, “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and so many others.
The entire program plays like a smooth, sleek nightclub act, packaged with flair, polish and style. From Robert Reddrick’s gifted musical direction, as well as his six member band accompaniment, to Ruthanne Swanson’s lovely period costumes, this exquisite trip down memory lane is an absolute treat for the eye and ear. Beautiful singing, spirited choreography and sparkling personalities light up the stage reminding us that memories are made of these.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented February 14-March 20 by Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark St., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 773-769-4451 or by going to www.blackensemble.org.
Additional information about this and other fine area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com