Upcoming Dance

Monday, 04 September 2017 21:02

The Queen of Soul Returns to Ravinia

After cancelling her performance earlier this season due to health concerns, the Queen of Soul, the great Aretha Franklin, tabbed as the greatest vocalist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, made her triumphant return to Ravinia. Dressed in a sparkling silver dress and donning a wig giving the seventy-five-year-old living legend long straight hair, the superstar made an immediate impact as she walked onto the stage after the band’s opening medley.

The soulful 1986 hit “I knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” was the first song the of many that Franklin delved into, her voice perhaps not as powerful as it once was, but every bit as finessed, unique and velvety. Franklin’s set was wide-ranging and included classics “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” along with Stevie Wonder written “Until You Come Back to Me” and B.B. King’s “Don’t Play that Song (You Lied)”.

Accompanied by a twenty-five-piece-plus gifted ensemble that included everything from a horn section to dancers, Franklin’s sound was big, filling the outdoor venue with the sweet sound of nostalgia. The excitement never let up, Franklin often getting well-deserved standing ovations. After all, she is one of the most influential artists of our time.

About halfway into the concert, the fabulous singer went into a powerful medley that began with Adelle’s “Rolling in the Deep” merging into The Supremes’ “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough”. A highlight moment without question. At one point the crowd was moved when the band played a soulful jam while Aretha fervently sang over the music telling her story of a serious illness that had miraculously vanished, thanking a team of skilled physicians and above all, God. Afterward, she immediately introduced longtime friend Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was seated in the first few rows.

Franklin rolled on with a beautiful array of material, wrapping up her set with “Freeway of Love”, which segued into a ten-minute high-spirited gospel revival, praising Jesus as the King of Kings, practically every audience member on their feet clapping along, many hands in the air, as the stage became a platform for an impromptu and very enthusiastic Baptist church service.

After a brief absence from the stage, Aretha Franklin return to perform possibly her largest hit, “Respect” - just the right number to end a tremendous set of music on a picture-perfect night. At seventy-five-years-young, the Queen of Soul is still making fans sing and dance as much as she ever has.


Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 00:00

Review: "Stick Fly" at Windy City Playhouse

"Stick Fly" is about the Levays, a wealthy African American family, who go to their beach house for a weekend getaway. What started off as two brothers bringing their significant others to meet their parents ends with revelations of deception, racial issues, and relationship woes. 

The older brother, played by Michael Pogue, does an excellent job in his role as an arrogant plastic surgeon. He brings home his Italian girlfriend, Kimber, who is strong, independent, and aware of her own privilege. Tyrone Phillips plays the younger brother, Kent, who has definitely gone through a journey to find himself but finally settled into writing to which he shows some talent. His girlfriend, Taylor, is neurotic and comes from a lower class background although her father is a well-liked and respected anthropologist who has written several books. We later learn that he left her at a very young age and created his own family that didn't include her. 

The family invites their longtime housekeeper to the beach house for the weekend but she asks her daughter Cheryl, played by Paige Collins, to fill in for her due to her illness. What we soon find out is that Cheryl went to a top tiered high school on scholarship and she is ready to attend college soon. It is apparent that she is out of place and clearly does not fit in.  

I couldn't help but to be impressed with Phillip Edward Van Lear’s performance as Dr. Levay. He is the matriarch and does a great job at commanding the stage when he walks in. 

I appreciate the playwright's attempt at bringing a very complex storyline to the theater. I was impressed with the fact that I was able to connect to a couple of characters as they all seemed to have some sort of problem. However, I felt at the end some of the characters were not fully developed and seemed a bit disjointed. Emotions were running high and it appeared that Cheryl just gave up at the end which was a bit of a disappointment. 

"Stick Fly" is the play to see if you like dramas with some comedy. Not only does it touch on many things such as family abandonment as well as racial issues; it leaves you reflecting on some of the things you may have encountered in your own life, especially if you are African American. This play is worth checking out at Windy City Playhouse, a non-profit theater that supports local actors. To be honest, any play that opens with Stevie Wonder is good in my book. 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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