Somebody Say Amen (The History and Music of Great Gospel Women) | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Somebody Say Amen (The History and Music of Great Gospel Women)

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Flawlessly inaugurating the 29-year-old Black Ensemble Theater's new "season of women," Jackie Taylor's musical tribute to four sisters, two granddaughters, and the Chicago matriarch who keeps them all together is a superb saga of survival. This sweet show--which includes gorgeous gospel classics as well as six new rousers written by Taylor--makes a splendid showcase for its seven powerhouse talents. Jimmy Tillman's musical direction, buttressed by a sterling seven-person combo, is no less heavenly than the material. More a traditional musical than the Black Ensemble's usual biopic fare, this salute to spirituality is irresistibly sincere, anchored by Yahdina U'Deen (formerly Phyllis Overstreet) in a stunning performance as the life-affirming 80-year-old. In the second act the characters confront too many crises, but the songs cure all ills. You don't have to be religious to be uplifted by this play. Through 11/21: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Black Ensemble Theater, Uptown Center Hull House, 4520 N. Beacon, 773-769-4451. $35.

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