The Jackie Wilson Story | Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
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Danny Nicholas

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 4 2016
Price: $55
Kevin Rolston Jr.'s charismatic presence and thrilling vocals anchor this portrait of influential singer Jackie Wilson, aka "Mr. Excitement." Known for his falsetto wails, athletic dance moves, strutting swagger, and sexy interaction with women in the audience—all of which Rolston re-creates impressively—the Detroit-born Wilson started out as a boxer before switching to a career in music and becoming one of the most influential performers in the development of R&B into soul during the 1950s and '60s. Directed and written by Jackie Taylor, with dynamic choreography by Rueben Echoles, the show doesn't whitewash the downbeat side of Wilson's saga—his drinking, his womanizing, his volatile temper, his depression following the murder of his teenage son, his exploitation by corrupt record executives, and his final years in a semicomatose state following an onstage heart attack in 1975. But the production's raison d'etre is the music—rousing renditions of classic hits such as "Lonely Teardrops," "Reet Petite," "A Woman, a Lover, a Friend," the 1967 crossover smash "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher," and even Wilson's gospel-tinged reworking of the Irish ballad "Danny Boy." —Albert Williams


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