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  Once Upon A People: A Dancesical at Black Ensemble Theater

Once Upon A People: A Dancesical

Black Ensemble Theater
4450 N. Clark Street Chicago

Once Upon A People is an original African Fairytale that exemplifies the true power of love told through spoken word, beautiful music and exhilarating dance. It's a touching and warm adventure that is perfect for the holiday season. We will journey to the mystical land of Mirah where Prince Oba and Princess Erin take us on a fascinating mystical experience that teaches us to embrace the joy of living.

Thru - Dec 30, 2013

Price: $30-$45

Show Type: Musical

Box Office: 773-769-4451

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins

Black Ensemble Theater Seating Chart

  Once Upon A People: A Dancesical Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"...When we go to a family-oriented holiday show like this one, we tend to want to hold the story in our hand and find comfort in its lessons for our everyday lives. Echoles has the beginnings of that understanding, and he certainly has exuberant choreography to match his passion. But there is a good way yet for him to travel and such a journey, as the characters in his show well know, invariably is eased by having as much company as possible."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Echoles’ score — powerfully sung, and superbly played by an onstage band led by music director Robert Reddrick — is an impressive melding of African rhythms, gospel, musical theater anthems and near operatic duets. The large cast is enhanced by a corps of exuberant dancers, many drawn from the Black Ensemble’s partner on this project — Studio One Dance Theatre, the 25-year-old school and arts center on the South Side. Their movement is as eclectic in style as the music."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"... But the 90-minute piece has a long way to go on multiple levels. Lyrics are often uninspired. Plot elements can be puzzling (e.g., the queen of Mirah can sometimes do magic, sometimes not). A sameness creeps into the choreography. And overmiking makes even a beautiful voice like that of Alexis Rogers--who plays the queen--come off as blaring and tinny."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Recommended

"...The largest part of what we call a "musical" nowadays tends to be singing, closely followed by spoken dialogue, accompanied by short episodes of dance or synchronized movement and maybe a single all-dance number in the second act. Once Upon a People, however, is not one of these, being instead a "dancesical"-the term coined by Pamela Avery, director of Studio One Dance Theater. Currently running in repertory with the extended hit Curtis Mayfield Story, this off-night spectacle represents a collaboration between Studio One and Black Ensemble-specifically, hoofmaster Rueben D. Echoles, who serves as author, composer, lyricist, director and choreographer for this innovative alternative to the Eurocentric fare dominating the holiday calendar."

Mary Shen Barnidge

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...This show is an ode to the dignity and joy of traditional African living now spoiled by modernity. The music is intoxicating, the dancing sparkles and the mood and atmosphere exudes humanity and the spirit of community. Rueban D. Echoles has a splendid, toe-tapping joyous operetta that begs for an audience. Kudos for Black Ensemble for taking a risk with this original yet traditional "dancesical" that plays out also as a song fest and an ethnic African folk concert. Once Upon A People is a slick, well-staged fairytale with loads of heart. It touches us deeply with its positive message and wonderful spirit. It is one of the finest shows yet produced by the Black Ensemble! Don't miss it!"
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...The cast will knock your sox off—from the rich tenor of the Donald Craig Manuel as King Babatunde, to the plaintive Jazelle Morriss as Princess Erin. Claudia Alexandria Cunningham is absolutely evil and then totally transformed as Zahara. And Alexis J. Rogers is a powerful matriarch super hero. There are puppet henchmen by Colleen Werle that threaten to steal the show. Sophia Springer as the representative child brings down the house with her Why?"

Angela Allyn

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Chicago theater audiences arein for something a little different at Black Ensemble Theater- not a show about a famous Black performer, but instead, a folk tale that tells a love story through creative dance and song, written, duirected and choreographed by Rueben D. Echoles, protege of  Jackie Taylor ( the founder and artistic director of Black Ensemble). Thise of us who are regulars at BE have watched this young man truly mature as a performer and writer/director. Bravo!"
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Alan Bresloff

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Recommended

"...Along with his other talents, Echoles knows how to cast his show. The five leading performers all possess white hot voices, even taking into account the use of body microphones. First among equals is Cunningham, who repeatedly rattles the rafters with her blast furnace belting. And when given their solos and duets, the same could be said for Rogers, Manuel, Lewis, and Morriss. Fortunately, there is little dialogue to intrude upon the rip roaring singing and stomping dancing. The proper audience strategy for enjoying the show is to just let the narrative wash over the viewer and revel in the high octane singing and dancing."

Dan Zeff

  Once Upon A People: A Dancesical Photo Gallery

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