Review: One Name Only (Black Ensemble Theater)

| October 12, 2012
Jessica Moore, Ninah Snipes, Lisa Beasley and Ta-Tynisa Wilson star in Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)        
       
One Name Only 

Written and Directed by Rueben D. Echoles  
BET Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark (map)
thru Nov 11  |  tickets: $55-$65   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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‘One Name Only’ a good idea gone long

     

The cast of Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)

    
Black Ensemble Theater presents
    
One Name Only

Review by Lauren Whalen 

The reality show is queen in today’s culture, and “American Idol” is the most successful of on-air talent competitions – wannabe stars belt and fight it out for the chance to chase their dreams. Black Ensemble Theater’s original production of One Name Only plays on this concept, following eight divas who leave their personal lives behind to cover the greats (Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Beyonce among them) for the almighty recording contract. Though One Name Only’s script is amateurish and the pacing slow, the singing voices are stellar and the reality-show format an entertaining crowd-pleaser.

Deborah Spencer stars in Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)On the popular reality show “One Name Only”, eight women are selected to live in a house together and compete weekly on-air to win a two-album recording contract and $100,000. Among the finalists are Tanika (Lisa Beasley), a rough-around-the-edges single mom from Detroit; Broadway diva Marylin (Candace C. Edwards); and cousins Miko (Jerica Exum) and Mya (A’rese Emokpae). But while participating in group singing challenges and being judged by greats such as Aretha Franklin (Dawn Bless), the women deal with challenges from home as well. Fresh-faced Kara (Ta-Tynisa Wilson) worries for her grandparents (Bless and Dwight Neal), and soulful April (Deborah Spencer) channels her idol Gladys Knight (Katrina V. Miller) while learning of her husband’s infidelity. And each week, the stakes get higher as jovial TV host Sam (Rashawn Thompson) reminds the women that in the end, he’ll call “one name only” as the winner.

One Name Only features the weekly reality show broadcast (encouraging audience participation) with additional backstage drama, video clips and an audition sequence. The result is rather bloated, as the show runs two and a half hours, a good hour longer than a lighthearted musical revue should go. The production values are stellar – kudos to costume designer Ruthanne Swanson, scenic designer David Ferguson and video designer Michael Stanfill – as is the score, featuring Franklin, Knight, Tina Turner and a special tribute to the late Whitney Houston. However, director Rueben Echoles’ script is amateurish, with almost zero characterization and dialogue that sounds unnatural. Echoles may have fared better by only showing the television broadcasts, as One Night Only’s strongest aspect is its singing.

Candace Edwards stars in Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas) The cast of Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)
One Name Only - Lane, Edwards, Exum, Emokpae Lisa Beasley stars in Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)

And, yes, the singing is wonderful. Beasley’s gorgeous voice fills the large space without overpowering, especially when she covers Beyonce’s “Work It Out”. Spencer is all wide eyes and subtle emotion – her rendition of Knight’s “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” is one of the show’s highlights. Edwards’ “I Will Always Love You” is stunning, and Bless steals the show as Patti LaBelle, with a hilarious and overdramatic “Over the Rainbow”. Though he doesn’t sing much, Thompson is a pleasure to watch in a humorous departure from the title role in last spring’s The Marvin Gaye Story.

Black Ensemble Theater embraces its lovely, large new space with vibrant musical productions that elicit vivacious audience response. One Night Only follows this pattern, showcasing fabulous vocals and sterling performances. If only the script were whittled down, the production may come closer to perfection.

  
Rating: ★★★
  
   

One Name Only (A Different Kind of Reality Show) continues through November 11th at BET Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark (map), with performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3 and 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $55-$65, and are available by phone (773-769-4451) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at BlackEnsembleTheater.org(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with intermission)

Photos by Danny Nicholas 


     

artists

cast

Lisa Beasley (Tanika); Jerica Exum (Miko); Dawn Bless (Gran, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin); Lydia F. Brown (Jacqueline); Candace C. Edwards (Marylin); Ta-Tynisa Wilson (Kara); Deborah Spencer (April); Ninah Snipes (Lisa); A’rese Emokpae (Mya); Katrina V. Miller (Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Secretary); Lyle Miller (Benard); Brandon Markell Holmes (Vincent); Terry Francois (John); Rashawn Thompson (Sam); Dwight Neal (Lenard); Jessica Moore (Ensemble)

band

Robert Reddrick (musical director, arranger, drums); Bill McFarland (trombone); Paul Howard (trumpet); Herb Walker (guitar); Mark Moultrup (keyboard); Tracey Anita Baker (bass); Dudley Owens (tenor sax)

behind the scenes

Rueben Echoles (director, writer); Denise Karczewski (lighting); Les Spires, Mike Pierce (sound design); David Ferguson (set); Ruthanne Swanson (costumes); Helen Lattyak (props); Michael Stanfill (video); Danny Nicholas (photos)

The cast of Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas) Ta-Tynisa Wilson stars in Black Ensemble Theater's "One Name Only", written and directed by Rueben Echoles. (photo credit: Danny Nicholas)

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Black Ensemble Theatre, Lauren Whalen, Musical, New Work, Video, World Premier, YouTube

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