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Chicago by Charles Eichler

Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk

Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre is exploding with energy as the new touring version of Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk takes residence here in a breath-taking production. From the applause and intensity of the opening night's audience, this show is a winner on all counts. It is probably one of the best shows I have seen this year, and this touring company really works for its standing ovation!

In Noise/Funk, choreographer Savion Glover and director George C. Wolfe have woven a beautiful tapestry of African-American history from the days of slave-ship immigration to America through present day times (brilliantly depicted in a musical/dance number called Taxi, in which various blacks of myriad occupations can't get a taxi to pick them up.) The use of tap-dancing throughout the show strongly enforces the black man's plight. Their saga is also structurally depicted in various slides and projections which depict the time period and atmosphere.

Act one zips along at a pace which keeps the cast targeted with certain moments in black history. "Slave Ships" is followed by a sentimental number called "Som'thin from Nuthin'." Moving into Urbanization, we are treated to the trek to Chicago and the ultimate effect it had on the black man's image as conveyed by such numbers as "Shifting Sounds," "The Chicago Rio Rag," and "The Whirligig Stomp." A cast of ten performers/musicians turn up the heat with their energy, stamina and drive. I've seen this type of dance presentation before with Stomp, Blast!, TapDogs, etc. but Noise/Funk provides the most momentum.

Unfortunately, act two began with several technical glitches and this may have distracted the cast. As a whole, act two lacks the unity of act one and tries to convey change too rapidly as the black experience moves from Hollywood, the Hippie movement of the '60s and ultimately, in a number called "The Gospel/Hip Hop Rant," the '80s and '90s.

As mentioned, the cast is blessed with outstanding performers and dancers. Savion is charming and pulsating with energy. His feet can't keep still and work magic. Thomas Silcott as 'da Voice and Lynette DuPress as 'da Singer offer strong narrative support. DuPress is especially memorable whether dressed in hippie clothes or a sparkling, revealing chanteuse-like outfit. The ensemble works well and I was also pleased to note that even the performers' legs are miked for full sound value in the tap routines.

The production values in Noise/Funk also enhance the dancing and music without being distracting. Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer are justly deserving of their 1996 Tony Award for the lighting of the show ( Noise/Funk won four Tony Awards in all). Whether back-lighting Glover in a moving narrative, cascading a simple routine with plenty of mood, or blasting us with all the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, the lighting is a vital element that moves the show along.

Credit also should be given to the Sound Design (Shannon Slaton), the Projection Design (Batwin and Robin), the Costume Design (Paul Tazewell) and the Scenic Design (Riccardo Hernandez). The show's score, by Daryl Waters, Zane Mark and Ann Duquesnay is appropriate and varied, matching the mood and feelings of what is happening on the stage.

In the end, it is the magic of tap dancing that holds the show together. As director George C. Wolfe notes, "From generation to generation, tap dancers taught each other their steps. The old timers passed their information on to Savion and it landed in his feet, his being and his soul."

Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, through October 20th. Tickets are available by calling the theatre (312)-902-1400.

See the schedule of theatre productions in the Chicago area


-- Charles



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