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BET’s “Don’t Make Me Over” – Winning Musical Biopic Formula

By Amy Munice

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(From Left, Top Row) William Dale Rowland, Toi Overton, Dennis C. Dent (From Left, Bottom Row) Kylah Frye, Rose Marie Simmons, Alexis Rogers, Renelle Nicole

 

If Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater (BET) has a slogan, it could very well be “Don’t Mess with Success”.

 

(Left) Rose Marie Simmons, (Top Center) Renelle Nicole (Bottom Center) Alexis J Rogers (Right) Kylah Frye

 

If anybody knows how to tell a story of a musician with songs doing a lot of the telling, it’s BET.  This time it is Dionne Warwick whom we get to meet up close and personal—and for some of us quite literally.

 

(From Left) Alexis J Rogers, Rose Marie Simmons, Kylah Frye, Renelle Nicole

 

Less a play with dramatic arc and more an endearing lesson in Black musical history, “Don’t Make Me Over” paints a portrait of Dionne Warwick in the same biopic style BET has mastered for so many other African-American musicians who similarly made their mark on American culture and beyond.

 

(From Left) Brandon Lavell, Dennis C. Dent, Renelle Nicole

 

BET Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor has penned this tribute to Dionne Warwick and imbued it with the feelings of love and admiration most of us feel who had a transistor radio to hold to our ear back in the day.

 

From Left) Kylah Frye, Rose Marie Simmons, Renelle Nicole

 

Taylor employs not one but three chanteuse actresses to depict DionneKylah Frye, Renelle Nicole, and Rose Marie Simmons and also an MC character, Ms. Divine, Alexis J. Rogers, who too is pressed into service to give the audience just a sampling of the many, many hits we associate with Dionne’s singular voice.   

 

(From Left) Renelle Nicole, Alexis J Rogers, Rose Marie Simmons, Kylah Frye

 

Song after song, with each of the singers seeming to reach for Dionne’s style as if it were the rainbow, it left us craving more from the deep well that is Dionne’s lifelong hit parade. 

 

(From Left) Renelle Nicole, Kylah Williams, Rose Marie Simmons

 

THIS is what all BET musical biopics do so very, very well.

 

It’s not just the show at BET, but every detail of the theater experience that seems to be so polished and thought out.  BET Saints not only guide you to your seat but REALLY seem to care if you like the music as much as they do.  As you leave you get to put your donations in the collection box and congratulate the cast whom you meet in a receiving line as if they were just married.  Go to a BET production and know you are family.

 

(From Left) Risha Tenae, Toi Overton, Rose Marie Simmons, Katrina Ri’chard

 

We did have a special treat though, on opening day.  At the show’s end it was Dionne herself who came to the stage to thank the cast and crew and marvel at the show.  She may have been donning a baseball hat and an oversized sweater to be incognito in the crowd.  But when she turned to us and looked out with those big eyes atop her incredibly high cheekbones, we could see her regal beauty seemingly undisturbed by age. 

 

It was a truly a thrill and perhaps an hors d’oeuvres for BET’s annual gala where she will be the special guest star. 

 

Gosh, if any theater knows how to do it right, it’s BET!

 

Tip:  Having attended BET productions before we already knew we’d go home addicted to Youtube surfing of Dionne’s songs.  This time we had the forethought to begin that surfing a day ahead of time also.   This is great fun to do.

 

To get on the BET mailing list for their Annual Fall Gala and other information you can join their email list online.

 

For tickets to “Don’t Make Me Over” call 773 769 4451 or visit the Black Ensemble Theater website.

 

Published on Apr 18, 2016

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