Revolution Chicago doesn't fully capture the fervor of house music's early days | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Revolution Chicago doesn't fully capture the fervor of house music's early days

Mickey "Mixin'" Oliver's new autobiographical musical has charm, but is too talky.


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The rise of house music is a large chapter in Chicago's story, yet Revolution Chicago's retelling makes the genre an uncompelling sidenote. Despite no support from his father and skepticism from his mother, Mickey "Mixin'" Oliver pursues a career DJing house music, eventually landing a gig at then-failing WBMX. As Mickey rises in prominence and WBMX rises in ratings, audience members are constantly reminded of the current state of house music and its influence on Chicagoans and folks around the world instead of being shown it through the story and action.

In several moments throughout the play (created by Oliver and Lidell Townsell and directed by Oliver), we hear how house music brought Chicagoans of all ethnicities together, yet there are no scenes reflecting this multiculturalism, not even a diverse house party. Several scenes update the audience on how many accolades Mickey and WBMX win, but there are few showing what those wins meant for the station and Mickey's larger career. More talking than showing from the ensemble makes the run time feel longer than it needs to be.

Comedic one-liners and impressive vocal renditions of Mickey's mixes by Anthony Hansen are high points of the play, yet the choreography by Brenda Good falls short of dance moves seen at house parties throughout Chicago during the genre's rise and even today. While there's no doubt that Oliver made great contributions to house music, this celebration disappoints when it comes to truly making audiences feel like they're back in the mid-80s where it all began.  v

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