BET’s THE MARVELOUS MARVELETTES Brings More Motown To Chicago
Reviewed By: Gwendolyn Thompson
Black Ensemble Theater’s newest production, THE MARVELOUS MARVELEETS took me right back to the year 1961. Motown at it’s finest. The voices crescendo throughout the theater and a tangible energy left me wanting more. The Marvelous Marvelettes opens with two former group members Juanita Cowart (performed by Rhonda Preston) and Katherine Anderson (performed by Deanna Reed-Foster). The pair, now filled with the wisdom of experience, add candid moments that make the audience feel right at home. With a combination of reflection and laughter, the duo reminisces on their past years together and provides the audience a glimpse of one of Motown’s most astonishing groups – The Marvelous Marvelettes.
It all started when a few girlfriends from Inkster, Michigan performed in their high school talent show. The top three winners of the talent show were offered a chance to audition for Motown. To their dismay the group of friends didn’t make the top three in the talent show, but with a bit of ingenuity from their faith driven teacher Mrs. Sharpley (performed by Ereatha McCullough) the group was able to audition after all. After meeting with Motown’s Founder, Berry Gordy (performed by Robert N. Isaac) we learn the original name of the Marvelettes, “The Casinyets”. Before hitting it big the girls joked that they were the group that “can’t-sing-yet”. After signing contracts that only yielded ten percent of every ninety percent earned which was split five ways and writing a number one hit “Please Mr. Postman, for which they never received full credit for, the group began to realize that maybe their great record deal wasn’t all they thought it would be. Over the years the stress of long tours and exhaustive rehearsal schedules began to take their toll on the girls. Keeping the group together seemed to be an uphill battle for Gladys Horton (performed by Melanie McCullough) who appeared to be the strongest member of the Marvelettes. Over time the members of the group transitioned and with the growing popularity of the Supremes, which ultimately over-shadowed the Marvelettes, the group ended in 1969.
Written by Reginald Williams and Directed by Rueben Echoles – The Marvelous Marvelettes is definitely a must see, with a cast whose talent takes full command of the stage supported by a live band that takes you straight back to Motown, you are sure head home singing one of the many catchy tunes. And although the Marvelettes never thought that their accomplishments were ever fully recognized, their music lives on and is still very much appreciated. So if you’re looking for a taste of Beechwood 45789 it can presently be found at 4450 N. Clark Street…..The Black Ensemble Theater.
BLACK ENSEMBLE THEATER
The World Premiere of
The Story of the Marvelettes
Written by Reginald Williams
Directed by Rueben D. Echoles
July 20 – September 7, 2014
Location: Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street. Valet parking available.
Tickets: $55 on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday matinees;
$65 on Fridays, Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees.