Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This (The History of Girl Groups) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This (The History of Girl Groups)

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Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This (The History of the Girl Groups), Black Ensemble Theater. Girl groups rose to prominence in the early 60s, after the great Sun Studios empire crumbled but before the British Invasion began in earnest. At the genre's peak, some 400 groups were touring America, and a few left indelible marks with hit singles. But exploitation was even more rampant than during the payola scandal that had sunk rock 'n' roll radio in the preceding years: groups signed away their royalties in shady contracts and were forced to mask their identities in order to appeal to white record buyers.

Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This leans heavily on the talents of Black Ensemble Theater musical director Jimmy Tillman: while the arrangements of some classics, like "Chapel of Love," seem a little toothless, the cast blows the roof off with "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" and "He's a Rebel." Playwright Marsha Estell pays less attention than she should to the unfortunate stew of business, race, and politics at the time. But she does segue intelligently between the show's 39 musical numbers with a loose Mamma Mia!-style story line about one character's search for identity. Overall the emphasis here is on recapturing the sensory experience of the 60s--the fabulous taffeta gowns, the beehive hairdos--not on what hindsight reveals four decades later.

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