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  Style and Grace: In Tribute to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson Reviews
Style and Grace: In Tribute to Lena Horne and Nancy Wilson
Black Ensemble Theater

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended

"...What is fascinating is that we see the mature versions of both women becoming more like each other than their younger versions - which at least hints at how sticking around in show business requires starch in the spine, as well as style in the song. (Rueben Echoles' costumes and wigs take us through all the fashion changes in their career.)"
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Kerry Reid



Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...Self-determination is a running theme throughout, with Horne's mother, Edna, telling her, "Nobody can own you for life" after she breaks her exploitative Cotton Club contract. Both women's activism is hinted at, especially Horne's efforts to change the way African American characters were portrayed in Hollywood, but where we see them truly break the barriers of time, space, and society is the vocal performances. Although more cohesive mannerisms could help with character consistency, Williams and Joy shine in emotive songs like "Stormy Weather" and "Believe in Yourself," respectively. Craig and Preston are pure diva in Wilson's songs—Craig with a twinkle in her eye during "Guess Who I Saw Today" and Preston bringing down the house during "You Don't Know How Glad I Am.""
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Marissa Oberlander



Stage and Cinema- Highly Recommended

"...Though smaller in cast and shorter in length than past B.E.T. productions, nothing seems shirked in Frye’s very sincere salute, buttressed as always by the superb and faithful musical direction of Robert Reddrick and his seven-man combo."
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Lawrence Bommer



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...Although this was a shorter production than most of BE performances and the cast seemed scaled down and hesitated to remember lines, the singing overall helped to make it an engaging show for Horne and Wilson fans. The musical direction of drummer Robert Reddrick and his seven-man combo did a good job bringing back that old style rhythm and blues, soulful jazz sound."
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Rick and Brenda McCain



Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...When one attends a production at Black Ensemble Theater, one expects to hear music “the way it is meant to be heard”, and, as always, their new show, “Style and Grace”, hit the mark! There is also a new voice in the background. Kylah Frye, who we have watched on the stage at Black Ensemble over the years, has taken on a new role ( or perhaps an added one) as an Associate Director with the company, and wrote and directed this piece. Turns out she is a triple threat, doing a great job."
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Alan Bresloff



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...Where the BET production does succeed is in presenting a lot of fine music from the great American song book. Rhonda Preston has been an ornament of BET music productions for years and her strong and expressive voice is a pleasure, as usual. Along with Chantee Joy, Preston provides most of the musical highlights, though Williams delivers a fine rendition of “Stormy Weather,” Horne’s signature song. The singing power and stage presence of Preston and Joy could have improved the first act, which needs pace and energy, though it might improve as the run continues. The opening act also suffers from exchanges of forced and arch banter among the singers and a pair of masters of ceremony who also double as minor characters.
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Dan Zeff



TotalTheater- Highly Recommended

"...We've got these four singers, you see. The duo played by Aeriel Williams and Chantee Joy represent Lena Horne at two divergent stages of her career, while the other pair, played by Jayla Craig and Rhonda Preston, are introduced as the younger and (ahem) older Nancy Wilson. After commenting on the curiosity of two such chronologically and temperamentally dissimilar pop superstars of color sharing the stage, our headliners proceed to dictate the evening's agenda—over the protests of (mostly male) managers, husbands and club emcees—thus demonstrating why these warblers from the 1940s and 50s, whose silky-sweet voices concealed a steely determination to make their own choices, are worthy of our attention in 2019."
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Mary Shen Barnidge