Black Ensemble Theater’s “Men of Soul” Review – Moving Tribute Ensemble

Lyle Miller as Freddie Jackson

 

They are all there—the men of soul and even some you might not think of as soul singers per se but you do know as stars like Elton John or Tom Jones.

 

Cast of Men of Soul

 

Ray Charles (Rashawn Thompson) starts off and gets us in the mood, with the pithy script by Daryl D. Brooks reminding us how Ray Charles refused to play in segregated Georgia theaters and how the state later made his “Georgia” song a state anthem. 

 

Rashawn Thompson as Ray Charles

 

James Brown, played amazingly by Rueben D. Echoles, charms the crowds with his wild moves the night after Martin Luther King Jr. is shot.

 

Rueben Echoles as James Brown

 

With just a sentence we’re brought to Lionel Ritchie’s (Daniel Philips) post-Commodores time and insecurities and see how his match up with Diana Ross (Rhonda Preston) to sing “Endless Love” brought in a new chapter.

 

Rhonda Preston and Daniel Philips as Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie

 

Just when you are still amazed at how Kevin Pollack channels Joe Cocker,

 

 

you’ll then see the performer formerly known as Prince come to life courtesy of Kyle Smith.

 

Kyle Smith as Prince

 

But don’t stop there—think of every man of soul whose voice has grabbed you and look forward to meeting him anew. 

 

 

It’s as if Black Ensemble Theater has created not one but dozens of tribute bands and showed the world how to do tribute right.  The impersonations are fantastic, the singing better still, the accompanying musicians flawless (Music Director:  Robert Reddrick).

 

Ray Charles canceled a performance in a segregated venue but paid his backup singers from his own pocket

 

Above all, this is an entertaining show. There isn’t much script and if you need well-developed protagonists’ stories told in 3D with a poignant arc this just isn’t your show.  All the better for the rest of us who will find it easier to get seats and then jump out of them from time to time to clap and roar with approval.

 

If you are looking for an afternoon or evening of lift-your-spirits entertainment THIS IS YOUR SHOW.  What could be better?  Maybe “Women of Soul”, a show Black Ensemble Theater says is coming soon. 

 

Now through August 31. 

 

Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 North Clark.

 

Buy online at the Black Ensemble Theater website or call 773 769 4451.

 

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Photos:  Danny Nicholas

 

 

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