What a delight it was to see Rick Stone: The Blues Man currently playing at the Black Ensemble Theater, extended until September 23, 2018. This performance presents the best of two talented, people who are very good friends, Jackie Taylor writer and director and Rick Stone, star. We were ushered into Ricky’s Place “where the drinks are flowing, the dance floor is full and the band never stops”. All our day to day concerns floated away as Ricky and his regulars Dwight Neal, Theo Huff, Rhonda Preston, Cynthia Carter, Kelvin Davis and Lamont Harris sang the blues, with many numbers made famous by the greatest blues artists of all time like B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, KoKo Taylor, Johnnie Taylor, Etta James, Taj Mahal, Fleetwood Mac and Buddy Guy, and others.
Whether you love the Blues or not, this is a must see. It would be hard for me to say Blues is my favorite kind of music but in this environment I was moved in a new way. Because the story line held the songs together, the words resonated with enhanced meaning and feeling. This is a true blues lover’s smorgasbord.
Here, at Ricky’s, the Blues were offered in a context that was rich, human and is essentially the basis of the Blues. The man – woman relationship – cheating, caring, needing- become frequent themes. Cynthia Carter belted it out along themes of an independent woman. Rhonda Preston is comforted as she shares her problems with her husband’s illness. Viet Nam Vet and PTSD are brought to attention, weaving their way into the story.
The audience was an intrinsic part of the show, clapping dancing in the aisles, singing, cheering and just enjoying made this a memorable experience, so reminiscent of an authentic Blues Bar. The outstanding musicians include: Robert Reddrick,-Musical Diretor/drums, Adam Sherrod-Keyboards, Gary Baker-Guitar, and Mark Miller-guitar. The harmonica in blues music developed around the World War II era and Ricky’s Place featured an outstanding professional harmonica player, Lamont D. Harris . Designers include: Jessica Moore, stage manager; Bekki Lambrecht with a fantast set design; David Sambe, Sound Design; Denise Karczewski – Light Design, Rachel West, Co-Light Design and, guess who? Jackie Taylor – fantastic costume design.
After listening to an interview with Rick Stone on the radio, I was motivated to see the show. To me, it was intriguing that his growing up years included, living in the Cabrini Green projects, his ling lasting friendship with Jackie Taylor, who also lived there, the film classic “Cooley High” in which they both participated, and more.
Chicago is generally regarded as the third Blues capital, following New Orleans and Austin. The South and West sides of Chicago were once dotted with homey, neighborhood Blues Clubs, many of which have closed or are about to close.
In Jackie Taylor’s “Message from the Writer/Director” she shares the story of growing up in the Cabrini Green projects with Rick. Their story is remarkable and this production is too. This is a winner, extended so all can see this. What’s keeping you? Before this, too, closes- Come to Ricky’s Place.
Photos: Alan Davis
Get on down to 4450 N. Clark Street at the Black Ensemble Theater and step into Ricky’s Place a blues lover’s paradise!
CALL THE BOX OFFICE AND ASK ABOUT VIP ON STAGE SEATING!