RedEye

'Ain't No Crying the Blues (In the Memory of Howlin' Wolf)' ★★★

"I need some ladies up here," declared Howlin' Wolf, as channeled through Rick Stone, at Black Ensemble Theatre on Sunday. Such moments of audience participation are not unusual at Black Ensemble, a theater long focused on the provision of a darn good time. And this particular electric bluesman, also known as Chester Arthur Burnett, certainly appealed to the ladies — even if he was a one-woman man, and a heck of a savvy financial planner, himself.

Still, such moments in the theater usually require the performer, or a flunky, to head out into the house and cajole and persuade. Not here. No sir. Stone had barely combined "need" and "ladies" when a plethora of women rushed up to the stage en masse, all for a chance to dance with the man.

That's testament both to the Wolf's appeal (he howled at the night sky long before vampire shows got big) and to Stone's charm. Stone, whom I last saw play this role in 2003, does not quite do what he did back then physically (who could?), but he more than compensates with the increased gravitas of age. If you could imagine a powder-blue suit, tailored for an elongated gentleman, hung on a coat hanger and then animated and made to dance, you have a sense of Stone's thing.

His upper-body stays still. His lower regions jive. But underneath all of that, Stone has a sweet, soft tenor that provides a crucial counterpoint to the howls and that were, overall, more important to that signature Howlin' Wolf sound.

Although Stone is back — no way to do this one without him — the show itself is quite different from that in 2003. Rueben Echoles now directs the piece, as written by Jackie Taylor, and he's added video and a lot more fluidity to the enterprise. It's tighter, too. The shtick here is that this is a memory play (its no "Glass Menagerie," but it works) and that Howlin' Wolf's famous rival at Chess Records, Muddy Waters (the lively Dwight Neal), keeps intruding into the yarn. That allows for lots of good-natured one-upmanship, and a recreation of the famous European tour of these stars allows for lots of concert-style presentations, all of which are a blast.

Technically, the show is called "Ain't No Crying the Blues (In the Memory of Howlin' Wolf)", but what you really are buying is the Howlin' Wolf Show. And the Rick Stone show. Ask for either, and I bet they'll sell you a ticket.

cjones5@tribune.com

Twitter@ChrisJonesTrib

When: Through Aug. 11

Where: Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark St.

Running time: 2 hours

Tickets: $55-$65 at 773-769-4451 or blackensemble.org

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River is three acres of overgrown weeds and shrubs. It is referred to by some as a "ghost park" because it is hidden in plain sight.

  • Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    There's a fire starting in my heart and it's making me realize it's been kind of a while since Adele released an album. Her last full-length "21" dropped in 2011 and I barely remember that year it feels so long ago. But now, there's some good news to fill our recently Adele-less lives and it's...

  • Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

  • Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Don't get me wrong, Justin Bieber is still really embarrassing. He's the young pop star who recently said something only a 21-year-old would say, "Now being 21, and going through some hardships, I think you can hear that in my vocals." This is a guy who, last year at a charity gala benefiting AIDS...

  • Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.

Comments
Loading
68°