Josephine Tonight! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Josephine Tonight! 

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This high-spirited, well-intentioned new musical by writer-lyricist Sherman Yellen (The Rothschilds) chronicles the six-year period, 1919 to 1925, when Josephine Baker was evolving from an East Saint Louis panhandler dancing in front of a Piggly Wiggly to the toast of Paris. Wally Harper's mercurial score traces that evolution, moving from high-stepping cakewalks and hard-boiled blues to the "Africanized" jazz that seemed to Parisians primitive and pure. Monique Whittington offers powerhouse performances as Josephine's mother and as her vaudeville benefactress, carrying Steve Scott's workmanlike staging of this creakily constructed bio-musical. But Melanie McCullough's harsh Josephine seems more predatory Motown dream girl than sophisticated headliner at La Revue Negre. Through 3/26: Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, 773-327-5252, $30.

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