At Last: A Tribute to Etta James | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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At Last: A Tribute to Etta James

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Near the end of this musical retrospective the audience joins in when a character proclaims once again, "I just love me some Etta James." Writer-director Jackie Taylor may offer too many self-help affirmations in this production--she'd rather analyze the singer's emotional state than give actual details about her life--but she knows how to entertain her audience. Five equally impressive and expressive singers, each representing a different time in James's life, rip through the show's two dozen tunes. Though James had a proclivity for "my man done left me" and "baby come back" numbers, Taylor carefully controls the show's tone, giving the proceedings levity and even joy as the musical selections swing smoothly from rollicking to wrenching and back again. The second act drags, but the first half brims with highlights. Previews 4/22-4/23: Fri-Sat 8 PM. $30. Opens Sun 4/24, 3 PM. Through 6/26: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Black Ensemble Theater, Uptown Center Hull House, 4520 N. Beacon, 773-769-4451. $35.

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