THE HOUSE THAT ROCKED, Black Ensemble Theater. This tribute to rock 'n' roll icons Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard spills out onstage like the contents of an overstuffed sandwich: the show's through line has been stretched to the limit, but the two dozen classic tunes it contains are brought to life with the utmost care and grace. David Barr III and Jackie Taylor's script touches on the complex, secretive lives of the performers in a disappointingly perfunctory manner. Instead the writers focus on the events surrounding the trio's appearance at the inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1986, filling in the dead spaces between performances with well-intentioned but incomprehensible attempts to connect rock 'n' roll with its tribal origins in Africa.
The song list is off the hook, mind you--and Robert Reddrick's arrangements are lush. Tony Duwon--the spitting image of Little Richard right down to the pencil mustache and greased hairdo--boasts an amazing falsetto. Kenn E. Head as Chuck Berry peaks early with "Sweet Little Sixteen" but satisfies throughout. And John Steven Crowley brings down the house with thundering performances of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" and "Blueberry Hill." Still, the show feels like nothing more than an expert recital, and even the greatest-hits routine gets tiresome well before the second act.