Men of Soul | Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Men of Soul Closing (Theater and Galleries) Member Picks The Short List (Theater) Image

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31 2015

Black Ensemble Theater’s shows are usually described as jukebox musicals, but this one, compiled and directed by Daryl Brooks, is more like a karaoke revue. Showcasing the music of male soul singers, the production features performances and arrangements that closely mimic hits recorded by Ray Charles, Luther Vandross, Bill Withers, and many others. Kevin Pollack and Rashawn Thompson bring the house down as Joe Cocker and Bobby Womack, respectively, while Rueben D. Echoles’s jittery James Brown and Kyle Smith’s convulsive Prince quickly descend into camp. But even in the best numbers the effect is one of rote imitation instead of fresh interpretation—a slick but empty exercise in nostalgia. Not to mention Brooks’s occasionally baffling song choices; since when is Billy Joel a soul singer? —Zac Thompson

Price: $45

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