Chicago's golden soul, Black Ensemble Theater. For mainstream audiences of the 1960s, soul music was any pop song written and/or performed by a black artist--usually recorded in Detroit, Memphis, or Philadelphia. But from 1964 to 1979, South Michigan Avenue in Chicago was known as "Record Row" for the studios that manufactured and distributed the blend of blues, gospel, and jazz called the "Chicago sound"--a territory mapped out by such seminal songwriters as Curtis Mayfield and Carl Davis, and by such voices as those of Dee Clark, Major Lance, Betty Everett, and the Chi-Lites.
Paying homage to the great names of Chicago soul in this fifth installment in the Black Ensemble's season of musical revues is a cast of ten. These well-trained vocalists zip through some 40 songs in a mere two and a half hours, never losing their smiles--even the inevitable opening-show glitches seemed entirely charming and natural. Narrative duties are carried out by the patriarchal John Steven Crowley and the mercurial Chester M. Gregory II (on opening night his Gene Chandler impression drew the approval of the man himself, watching from the front row).
The score of Chicago's Golden Soul will be well within the memories of most audience members, and no one need be ashamed of dispensing with the show's educational content to sing along on the harmonies, dance along to the act-two opening number, or cry when Direoce Junirs sings "Make It Easy on Yourself."
--Mary Shen Barnidge