Keep a Song in Your Soul | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Keep a Song in Your Soul Closing (Theater and Galleries) Critic's Choice Recommended The Short List (Theater)

When: Nov. 3-6 2011

Reginald Robinson took a seat at the onstage piano and ripped into his own fast, bright ragtime-style tune, "Footloose." And that did it. Only minutes after walking into a rehearsal for Keep a Song in Your Soul, I'd lost my reportorial cool. The guy is amazing. Featuring Robinson, local tapper Reggio "the Hoofer" McLaughlin, and a preservationist band called the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Keep a Song in Your Soul is a look at the "black roots of vaudeville." And those roots seem to stretch in every direction. The show covers a period of roughly 140 years, from the first quarter of the 19th century to the 1960s. At the rehearsal, I heard an old blues song, "See See Rider," and the 1932 jazz hit "Underneath the Harlem Moon" ("Where do you highbrows find the kind of love that satisfies? / Underneath that Harlem moon!"). Chocolate Drops member Dom Flemons did a sort of funky rifle drill with his guitar, and the whole cast square-danced—which surprised me even more than Felmons's guitar swinging, but it turns out there's a significant tradition of African-American square dance. Two caveats: First, all of the above is held together by a narrative written in a poetic style that seems to value rhythm and mood over clarity. Second, the performers clearly aren't trained actors; they can get a little rough when it comes to negotiating the occasional role. But they know their core business exceedingly well, so just be patient and wait for them to play. —Tony Adler

Price: $41-$45

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