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  Ain't No Crying the Blues (In The Memory of Howlin Wolf) at Black Ensemble Theater

Ain't No Crying the Blues (In The Memory of Howlin Wolf)

Black Ensemble Theater
4450 N. Clark Street Chicago

When Rick Stone (Cooley High) first performed as Howlin Wolf, Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It's Rick Stone who consistently knocks your socks off in his terrifically sustained performance. And as he moves through Wolf's hits-Red Rooster, Goin' Down Slow, I Ain't Superstitious, Baby Please Don't Go and more-it's the audience that begins howlin' loudest." Now Rick Stone returns to do it again in this new story reflecting the life and times of one of the greatest blues singers the world has ever known - Howlin Wolf.

Thru - Aug 11, 2013

Wednesdays: 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 3:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays: 3:00pm

Price: $55-$65

Show Type: Musical

Box Office: 773-769-4451

Running Time: 2hrs, 15mins; one intermission

Black Ensemble Theater Seating Chart

  Ain't No Crying the Blues (In The Memory of Howlin Wolf) Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Recommended

"...Although Stone is back - no way to do this one without him - the show itself is quite different from that in 2003. Rueben Echoles now directs the piece, as written by Jackie Taylor, and he's added video and a lot more fluidity to the enterprise. It's tighter, too. The shtick here is that this is a memory play (its no "Glass Menagerie," but it works) and that Howlin' Wolf's famous rival at Chess Records, Muddy Waters (the lively Dwight Neal), keeps intruding into the yarn. That allows for lots of good-natured one-upmanship, and a recreation of the famous European tour of these stars allows for lots of concert-style presentations, all of which are a blast."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...The serviceable script gives us the essentials. There is the painful childhood with a cruel mother who throws him out of the house as a kid, and rejects him until the bitter end "for singing the devil's music" (a riveting turn by Cynthia F. Carter, who later shifts characters to sing a rousing "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit on It"); the whip-wielding uncle who makes him labor in the fields; the father he finally meets at 13, who gives him love and a family. There is the coaching by Delta bluesman Charley Patton; the three unhappy years in the Army; his discovery by Sam Phillips; and his move to Chicago in 1953 to record for Chess Records, where he had a contentious relationship with Leonard Chess."
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Hedy Weiss

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...The necessity of placing Robert Reddrick's combo down on the checkerboard-tile floor to craft their endless variations on the three-chord 12-bar progressions at the foundation of Da Blues soon becomes apparent. Like with most Black Ensemble biodramas, music dominates the evening. Stone's replication of Wolf's midnight prowl and gravel-throated bark (with a few sweet high notes creeping in, nevertheless) is flawless, but he can't do two hours all by himself, mandating full-cast dances and solo turns by other luminaries of the era-Big Mama Thornton, Bobby Bland and Muddy himself. "As long as they remember you," our host reminds us, "You can live forever." Amen and "Aaah-oooo-wooo!" to that."

Mary Shen Barnidge

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...The show's big conflict is Howlin' Wolf's rivalry with Muddy Waters (Dwight Neal)-mostly just a way for Taylor to insert some of Muddy's songs into the proceedings. There's a simplicity to the book that puts all the focus on the singing, where the ensemble doesn't disappoint. Stone's evocative lead performance sets a high bar that's met by his costars, with Cynthia F. Carter delivering a highlight with her version of "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit on It (The Chair Song)." When the band is grooving and the actors are working the crowd, Howlin' Wolf is a communal experience that can't be matched."
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Oliver Sava

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Ain't No Crying the Blues lets Stone, sexy and foxy in an eye-popping blue lame suit, recall a larger-than-life Chicago blues sensation and grand influence on today's chart-busters. We meet his vicious mother but not his deserting dad. We learn - a bit too much - about his live-long rivalry with Chicago's other male blues king, Muddy Waters, whose mojo is working very well in Dwight Neal's impersonation. Mr. Wolf explains his exploitation by Chicago's white-run Chess Records who finally granted him royalties, his lifelong love of his wonderful wife Lil (a solid Kylah Williams), his European tour in 1963 with the likes of Big Mama Norton, and the diabetes that dogged his final concerts."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...This type of play then can only be as good as the performers and boy are they something to watch. Backed up brilliantly by the BET house band (which is directed by Robert Reddick) the music here feels as raw as if it came out of a smoky Chicago Blues Club. And Rick Stone's performance as Howlin' was nothing short of masterful as he swaggered, sung, and duck walked his way over the stage like it was his to own. Never once out of character, Rick Stone appeared to put it all on stage and the show was better for it. Equally strong performances were also delivered by ensemble members Rashawn Thompson (as veteran blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin) and Cynthia F. Carter (whose overtly sexy rendition of If I Can't Sell It, I'll Sit on It was worth the price of admission by itself)."
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Noel Schecter

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...Looking back on his life, Howlin' Wolf encourages the audience to keep those we've loved and lost alive in our hearts through an act of remembrance. Now if only all our memories could be as roisterous and rollicking as Ain't No Crying the Blues..."
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Anthony J. Mangini

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"...Ain't No Crying the Blues paints a fascinating dichotomy of a musician who appears to be a saint off the stage, but on stage is nothing less than a salacious, menacing tornado of entertainment and work ethic. Is this the complete truth? Perhaps not, but as the musical embodiment of Howling Wolf, Stone brings a gritty, life-or-death conviction to his performance that feels completely authentic. This was echoed by the nodding, smiling faces of so many well-dressed audience members for this press opening who turned out to be relatives of Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. The older family members were likely remembering who they lost and the younger ones (and this critic) were privileged to experience these greats in the flesh for the first time."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...One of the reasons I truly enjoy going to productions at Black Ensemble Theater is that Jackie Taylor and her talented people keep alive the music and memories of the great music of the Jazz and "Blues" days as well as some insight into the Chicago recording scene during those early days. Yes, we all know about "Motown", but many of us have never really learned about the south loop Chess Records, where many a local Blues star got their start ( and in many cases, their finish). Perhaps, somewhere along the line, some writer will truly research this company an dits recording stars and do a story about what they brought to the scene. Meanwhile,, as a lover of the Blues, I am happy to say that Ms Taylor's revisiting of the story of Howlin Wolf ( Chester Arthur Burnett) who is once again portrayed by the tall, lanky, highly flexible on the dance floor, Rick Stone. While his singing voice is more Louie Armstrong, his movement and personality are 100% Howling Wolf."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...The show features almost 20 musical numbers. The real Howlin' Wolf played the guitar and the harmonica but Stone sticks to singing. Most of his numbers are blues songs associated with Wolf, though the selection seems a little random. We hear Wolf standards like "Smokestack Lightning," "Spoonful," "Back Door Man," and "I Ain't Superstitious," but not "Little Red Rooster," the irresistible "Wang Dang Doodle," and "How Many More Years," his first and maybe biggest hit."

Dan Zeff

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