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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, October 27

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Review Wed Feb 27 2013

Review: From Doo Wop to Hip Hop

As is the case with most of Jackie Taylor's productions, audiences are taken on a musical ride; in her latest offering, From Doo Wop to Hip Hop, now playing at The Black Ensemble Theater, the music once again takes center stage. Whether you like crooning along with The Coasters or rhyming with Run DMC, this show has something for the old school--the new school--and everyone in between.

Brandon Markell Holmes, Lawrence Williams, Kelvin Roston Jr., Coryandre Wright - H.jpg

Cast of From Doo Wop to Hip Hop; from l to r: Brandon Holmes, Lawrence Williams, Kelvin Roston, Jr. & Corey Wright. Photo: Danny Nicholas

Written and directed by Taylor and associate director Rueben Echoles, From Doo Wop to Hip Hop, part of the Black Ensemble's "Treasures and Tributes" series, is the story of Unison Hills, a family-oriented, multi-ethnic, multi-generational community whose residents all have one thing in common: music.

For the neighborhood's older residents, time is spent reminiscing on the days of 50s and 60s-style doo wop, an era when teens harmonized on street corners, instead of using those corners for no good. And with Unison Hills' younger generation, dreams are just beginning, but with obstacles and challenges along the way.

Taylor and Echoles expertly illustrate that while a generation or two separates the residents, they are more alike than they are different. For Unison Hill's older residents, trouble and strife come via illness, violence, and troubled marriages, while the younger crowd is plagued with overbearing relatives, controlling boyfriends (which seemed to be used as a warning sign of domestic violence), a hip hop artist (Lawrence Williams) with a shady past, and a damaged father-daughter relationship. While youth violence is a very real problem in our communities, in this story, it seemed somewhat contrived and disjointed; however, if nothing else, it managed to serve as a reminder that no community, not even a well-to-do one, is exempt from it.

But what ultimately makes a Jackie Taylor production is the entertainment factor--and From Doo Wop to Hip Hop has plenty of it. The doo wop included amazing singing, with classics like "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Sixteen Candles," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"--and the hip hop side, accompanied by live music from the always amazing Black Ensemble house band--offered a tight medley of hits by rap giants including Tupac, Lauryn Hill, Notorious B.I.G. and MC Lyte. While the fusion of the singing and rapping was outstanding on its own, the showstopper was frustrated and unhappy wife Frances (Meghan Murphy) and her powerhouse rendition of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man."

From Doo Wop to Hip Hop is a true music lover's delight; its perfect blend of sounds from the past and the present, as well as Taylor and Echoles' choice to feature "safe," family-friendly rap songs like Naughty By Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" and "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, was a brilliant move, especially for the older audience members who may have walked in the theater with their own ideas about hip hop. And in the end, fans of The Platters or Public Enemy or even The Spaniels or Snoop Dogg, came together and bridged the gap from doo wop--to hip hop.


See From Doo Wop to Hip Hop now through April 14, Wednesdays through Sundays, at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark St. Show times vary; tickets are $55-$65 and are on sale at the box office or online. For more information, call 773-769-4451.

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Vince / March 1, 2013 11:49 AM

Sounds like a great show! It's a good thing to bridge the gap in music.

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Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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