On Sunday, May 13, 2018, audience members were treated to a lively tribute to Patti LaBelle at the Black Ensemble Theater. Jackie Taylor and the Black Ensemble continue their 2018 Movers and Shakers season with A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti LaBelle written and directed by Rueben D. Echoles. Mr. Echoles does a great job telling the story of how Patricia Louise Holt transforms into the legendary Power House diva Patti LaBelle.
The production chronicles her life and career over a period of five decades and is narrated by Dawn Bless who portrays present day Patti LaBelle. She takes the audience on a journey through her life as a shy introverted teen who finds her voice while singing in the church choir to her first recording contract in which she was given her stage name LaBelle which means “Beautiful”.
The audience learned some facts about Ms. LaBelle’s personal life, including her engagement to Otis Williams of the Temptations and her marriage to her long-time friend, Armstead Edwards. Although they are no longer married, they remain good friends. The audience also learns of the devastating losses of her three sisters Vivian, Barbara, and Jackie, who all died from cancer in their forties.
The show consists of her hit songs with the group as well as her solo career. Cherise Thomas (Young Patti) and Dawn Bless (Older Patti) did a phenomenal job channeling their inner Patti, with their powerful and spine-tingling vocals. There were moments when Dawn Bless hit notes that made one think that Patti LaBelle had taken the stage. Her impression of the singer was exceptional and for those who have never experienced a Patti LaBelle concert, it came close to feeling like you were attending one. Jessica Seals (Sarah), Kylah Williams (Cindy Birdsong), and Renelle Nicole (Nona Hendrix) also serve the audience with great vocals as they harmonize together as the Blue Belles later known as LaBelle.
The performances by the entire ensemble were entertaining. Rueben D. Echoles did a wonderful job replicating the costumes and hairstyles of LaBelle. I believe Patti would be impressed as well if she was in attendance. You could feel the energy in the room as the audience sang along to the tunes of “Lady Marmalade”, “On My Own” and “You are My Friend”. I’ve attended many of Ms. Taylor’s productions and I must say this is one of my favorites. This is a show that should not be missed. I guarantee it won’t disappoint! A New Attitude: In Tribute to Pattie LaBelle will have you singing and dancing in your seat. Tickets are available at the Black Ensemble Theater Box Office located at 4450 N. Clark St. in Chicago or online at Blackensemble website, or by phone at (773) 769-4451. The show runs through June 17, 2018.
Photos courtesy of Black Ensemble Theater