Wang Dang Doodle (The Life Story of Koko Taylor--Queen of the Blues), Black Ensemble Theater. There are plenty of good years left for Koko Taylor, but since she's one of Chicago's living treasures, a Black Ensemble biographical pageant is not premature. And unlike most music revues, featuring singers in street clothes warbling sentimental selections from the subject's canon, Wang Dang Doodle offers dialogue, dance, spectacle, audience participation (gentlemen sitting in the front rows, be prepared to dance--what Lady K. wants she gets), history lessons, and kick-ass selections from the music that made and continues to make Chicago famous worldwide.
The play, written and directed by Jackie Taylor, traces through flashbacks the singer's progress from sharecropper's daughter (whose sweet tooth earned her the nickname "Koko") through her discovery in 1960 by Willie Dixon (from whom she borrowed her trademark growling delivery) to the present day. Homage is also paid to Robert "Pops" Taylor, her husband and manager (played by Rick Stone with loose-limbed grace), who acts as narrator in those rare moments when the phenomenal Queen Roy, playing Koko herself, isn't providing the kind of vocal legerdemain that makes the dead rise up and boogaloo. A trio of leggy hoofers assists.
--Mary Shen Barnidge