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  Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker at Black Ensemble Theater

Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker

Black Ensemble Theater
4450 N. Clark Street Chicago

Black Ensemble travels across the ocean to Oui Paris to tell the story of the one of the most dynamic performers the world has ever seen. Black Pearl: The Story of Josephine Baker will take audiences through the life of the first black international superstar, beginning with her meager beginnings to the star power of one of the most iconic figures that the world has ever seen.

Thru - Jun 18, 2017

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

  Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...But as the excellent new show at Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago makes clear, Baker's crossing, and subsequent switch to French citizenship, came at a price. She had to deal with the sense of dislocation experienced by many emigres, a feeling that she could no longer love the country that did not love her back. And, of course, when you really analyze what the French loved Baker to do, you find her feeling obliged to perform numbers like the signature "danse sauvage.""
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...It is only in the very final moments of "Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker" - the Black Ensemble Theater's sensational new show - that archival photographs of the groundbreaking performer who became the toast of Paris in the 1920s are projected above the stage. And that is as it should be, for up until then, two remarkable actresses with their own formidable star power - Aeriel Williams (as the irrepressible young Josephine) and Joan Ruffin (as her more mature incarnation) - turn in such vivid portrayals of the fabled dancer-singer that you fully believe you are in the presence of Baker herself."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Baker (terrific performances from Joan Ruffin and Aerial Williams as the older and younger Josephine, respectively) chronicles her life from childhood, pointing to a few choice accomplishments along the way, among them her championing the integration of segregated theaters in the U.S. and spying for the French resistance during the Nazi occupation. While not everything comes into full view-her 12 adopted children, for one thing-the play is a thoroughly compelling portrait of Baker and her remarkable place in history."
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Matt de la Pena

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...The talent is as uniformly excellent as we have come to expect at Black Ensemble, but Joan Ruffin and Aeriel Williams, playing, respectively, the mature and the youthful Baker, lend such warmth to Robert Reddrick and Reuben Echoles' musical arrangements that we feel as lucky to be in the same room with them as we would be in the presence of the legendary persona they share."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Happily, the good and hard times fend equally well in B.E.T.'s gorgeous recreation, its 18 musical numbers well shaped by the excellent Robert Reddrick and a combo of seven. The 14 cast members are everything and everywhere, perfect for their periods and blessings to their songs and dances."
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Lawrence Bommer

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker has all the elements of a fabulous show: terrific songs, outstanding dance numbers, strong performances including the ensemble and a worthy story. I learned much about Josephine Baker while I was thrilled by the depiction of her life. Black Ensemble with Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker and their recent The Nicholas Brothers show that they are committed to a 'Dance Theater Season'. Expert dance showstoppers adds more reason to catch the shows at the Black Ensemble Theater."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...Daryl D Brooks new show Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker is a sparkling new work of Music Theatre that will have should have a lengthy life as the go to bioplay on this seminal figure in world entertainment. It’s a long overdue marvelous tribute to one of the most vibrant “mothers” of American theatre, even though most of her career was spent as an expat in France."

Angela Allyn

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Songs in this production are: "C'est Si Bon", "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home", "Maple Leaf Rag" (what a great dance number), "Blue Skies", "I'm Just Wild About Harry", "Charleston". "Banana Dance (the opening of the second act-wow!), "Begin The Beguine", "Afetr I Say, I'm Sorry", "The Times They Are A Changing" and the final song where we have both the young and older Josephine bringing their voices as one, "My Way" ( it will send chills up and down your spine). There are others, but this list is more than enough to make you want to visit this theater."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...The energetic ensemble, who play all the supporting roles and keep the songs and dances in top form, are sensational. Familiar faces like the lovely, talented Rhonda Preston, playing both a breathtaking Bessie Smith and Josephine's mother; Kylah Frye, who portrays Carrie during her younger years; and the always show-stopping Kyle Smith, as her mentor, Joe, are true standouts. But this musical belongs to two ladies. Both Aeriel Williams, as a stunning younger Josephine, and Jean Ruffin, as Josephine in her later years, the charismatic narrator of the piece. Together these two ladies are deservedly the ovation-producing stars of this show and the reason to make the trip up Clark Street to enjoy this magnificent musical. It's a piece of history that will delight and inspire audiences of all ages."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...Ruffin and Williams carry the show but they do have considerable help from the large supporting cast-Kylah Frye, Rhonda Preston, Lemond Hayes (a terrific dancer), William Rowland, Linnea Norwood, Dennis Dent, Gregory Slater, Kyle Smith, Jake Stempel, Kelly Maryanski, Vincent Jordan, and Phillip Christian. They all play multiple role and play them well."

Dan Zeff

Chicagoland Musical Theatre - Highly Recommended

"...If you could go back in time to see one deceased performer in concert, who would it be? Fans of classic rock might choose John Lennon or Freddie Mercury while opera fans would likely select Maria Callas or Enrico Caruso. However, for a select group of enthusiasts of early jazz and cabaret music, Josephine Baker would be high on the list. For that set, Black Pearl at the Black Ensemble Theater is the next best thing.
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Bryson David Hoff

Picture This Post - Recommended

"...Overall, BLACK PEARL succeeds in illuminating the full scope of Josephine Baker's storied life -- its harsh beginning, glorious peak and surprisingly maternal ending."
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Susan Lieberman

  Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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