Last Dancer Standing Review – Dancing, Singing and a Feel Good Story

Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor continue the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with the world premiere musical Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop), written, directed, and choreographed by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Rueben Echoles, currently in production at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago through September 3, 2017. 

Andre Teamer, Lauren Well, Deverin Deonte

This impressive musical will appeal to audiences of all ages, as it provides a fictionalized glimpse of the stressful and fraught yet intensely bonding “reality” behind a reality dance competition. In the show, ten of the best national dancers are competing  for a shot at  winning  $10,000 and an opportunity to tour with R&B singing sensation "Justin Paul". As the action develops, the cast reveals its full share of humor, tension, drama and conflict. Live on this well-crafted stage, one  sees the  fine singers/dancers/actors challenged with all types of routines as well as al types of problems from jealousy to harassment. As the show progresses, we learn their personal difference, their desires, their friendships, and we watch them perform and get selected out. This clever and upbeat performance takes viewers on a fulfilling journey where we learn that no matter what our talents, our abilities, or our circumstances in life, we have much more to gain by working together than we do by tearing each other apart.


A device this reviewer found especially effective was the comments of the dancers after each mini-program, revealed to the audience via TV monitor. Everything about this production was just the way it needed to be to bring the audience into the action. As each dance number came and went, any effort to choose a favorite was futile. They were all very special and included a wide range of dance styles from ballet to hip hop. 

The singing was equally impressive.  Perhaps “mama” Evette Michaels (Shari Addison) had the better reputation in the play but certainly her initially less-favored daughter Radiant Michaels (Alexia J. Roston) could belt out a song that was equally impressive.

Alexis Aker, Linnea Norwood, Junior White

The cast of Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop) includes Shari Addison, Michael Adkins, Alexis Aker, Brian Boller, Kayla Brown, Deverin Deonte, Charlotte Drover, Kylah Frye, Lemond Hayes, Devin Joyner, Shonee Muse, Brian Nelson, Renelle Nicole, Linnea Norwood, Alexis J. Roston, Jessica Seals, Gregory “Henri” Slater, Levi Stewart Jr., Trequon Tate, Andre Teamer, Lauren Wells, Junior White and Kylah Williams.

The production team of Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip Hop) includes Bekki Lambrecht (Scenic Design), Denise Karczewski (Scenic and Lighting Design), Cherise Thomas (Costume Design), Aaron Quick (Sound and Projection Design), Paul Kartcheske (General Manager and Technical Director), Tanya Harry (Stage Manager), Daryl Brooks (Equity Stage Manager and Production Manager).

Junior White, Linnea Norwood, Kylah Frye, Charlotte Drover, Lemond Hayes, Brian Nelson, Levi Stewart, Jr, Renelle Nicole

As always with the great shows at Black Ensemble Theater, the production features a live band under the direction of Robert Reddrick (Music Director, Arranger, Drums). The band also includes Danny (Smoke) O’Connor (Bass), Oscar Brown (Guitar) and Adam Sherrod (Keyboard).

Tickets are available at the Black Ensemble Box Office located at 4450 N. Clark St in Chicago, or online at the Blackensemble website, or by phone at (773) 769-4451. Tickets are $45 for previews (May 6, 7, 12 and 13, 2017); $55 (Thursdays and Saturday matinees) and $65 (Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees).  There is a 10% discount for students, seniors and groups.

Alexis Aker, Trequon Tate, Shonee Muse, Alexis Roston, Devin Joyner, Michael Adkins

All photos by Michael Courier

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