Photos by Danny Nicholas

by David Cohen

In true Black Ensemble Theater style where the music takes center stage, Musical Director Robert Reddrick gives live to One Name Only (A Different Kind of Reality Show) a tribute to the music of the Ladies of Soul, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston.

One name Only is the story of ten women finalists competing for the title "Best Star Singer," set in a reality TV show with a panel of judges. Just as in the popular American Idol the reality TV show, each contestant tries to make their way to the top, and with one third of the final vote the audience decide who is the winner for that evening. This ensures that every night the outcome of every show will be different.

And if this is not enough, the Founder of BE Jackie Taylor promises to deliver more surprises. There are going to be special guest appearances by national recording stars, including the one-and-only Dionne Warwick, and of course the date of her appearance is kept as a secret. On some nights, “guest judges” will include some of Chicago’s brightest stars and powerhouse singers. Surly, this is a clever way of creating excitement and making us experience the "real" world of reality TV shows.

Written and directed by by BE Associate Director Rueben Echoles, this world premiere musical is entertaining, unique in its approach to  the theatrical experience, but it is not as great as the previous show The Marvin Gaye Story. The first act is too slow and too long. It did lack the energy and the power of the second act, which has the best hits, solos performances of the entire production. Dawn Bless who performed as Ms LaBelle, delivered the best moments of the entire production singing the classic hit Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Ms Bless brought the audience to their knees, and won an stand-ovation for her superb and outstanding ability as a singer and actor. Nonetheless, Lisa Beasley as Tanika and Candace C. Edwards as Marylin, are remarkable in the leading roles. With their commanding voice and talent, the two delivered a perfect final round as they did justice to Houston's hits, and gave this production of One Name Only the essence of what the Black Ensemble is all about. Overall, One Name Only is a good and fun show that will send you home happy and satisfied.

Through November 11, 2012 • The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street • Valet parking is available. 
Tickets from $55-65. 10% discount for students, seniors, and groups.  Available at www.ticketmaster.com, or call 773-769-4451.