Don't Get Around Much Anymore | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Don't Get Around Much Anymore 

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Don't Get Around Much Anymore, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Okoro Harold Johnson's Don't Get Around Much Anymore combines storytelling, music, dance, verse ballads, and design images to produce an intimate look at the roots of the Bronzeville tradition (also depicted in ETA's 1994 Stepper's Ball) during the south side's glittering heyday. The show, which Johnson also directs, is framed by a superficial narrative: the Morrison siblings have entered a steppin' contest, but their grandfather, a former jazz musician, thinks they won't win without some historical background. The first act traces the rise of such entertainment legends as Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Joseph "King" Oliver, and Oscar Brown Jr., all of whom played the entertainment palaces in the neighborhood commemorated today with a bronze plaque at 35th and King Drive. The show then re-creates a typical evening at the Club DeLisa.

Julian Swain, playing the Morrison patriarch, leads a talented cast, assisted by Al Boswell and Fernando Jones as the grandfather's sidekick and his gainsayer. Durrell Daniels's onstage combo anchors the score, a mix of standards (audiences are invited to harmonize) and original compositions. High-stepping hoofers provide unflagging visual appeal: Vella D. Pearce does a period-perfect black bottom, but Delia Tyson's dance--featuring fiery torches and a boa constrictor (would I lie?)--steals the show. No chance of sleeping through this history lesson. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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