A couple of weeks ago, several of us took a girlfriend to see “The Story of Curtis Mayfield: It’s All-Right To Have  A Good Time” at the new Black Ensemble Theatre on North Clark Street to celebrate her birthday.  It was the first time we had seen the new theatre.  We were impressed with its size and design.

Unfortunately, when ordering the tickets, I had been remiss in mentioning that our friend needed special seating.  After discovering that her assigned seat was not adequate, we brought it to the attention of ushers and management.  Management then gave us seats that would accommodate our friend’s needs as well as let us sit together.  We really appreciated the theatre’s willingness and efforts to have us enjoy the show together.

The show – under the direction of Jackie Taylor and Daryl D. Brooks, was great.  I’ve actually never seen a bad Black Ensemble production, which is not to say that I’ve seen all their productions.  The music, the acting, the dancing and the singing were superb.  Applause, applause!  Although I admired everyone’s performance, I envied Ereatha Star McCullough’s singing.  Her powerful voice reminded me of my mom’s and cousin’s.  Their voices had a richness I was never able to achieve when I tried to sing.

In brief, Curtis Mayfield was an African American singer, musician, songwriter and record producer born in Chicago on June 3, 1942.  Much of his “soul” music expressed social consciousness.  Examples of his lyrics are: “If you had a choice of color, Which one would you choose my brothers?” (from “Choice of Colors”);

“What’s that I see/A great big stone wall/Stands there ahead of me/But I’ve got my pride/And I’ll move on aside/And keep on pushin’” (from “Keep On Pushing”);

“Little child/Runnin’ wild/Watch a while/You see he never smiles” (from “Little Child Runnin’ Wild”);

“Hush now child and don’t you cry/Your folks might understand you by and by/Move on up towards your destination/You may find from time to time Complications” (from “Move On Up”).

Through mostly music, the show gives the history of Curtis Mayfield and his musical creativity before and after an accident paralyzed him.  He died on Dec. 26, 1999. 

The show really is worth seeing.  It shows how artists such as Curtis Mayfield can use their talents to comment on and influence the world around them. Hopefully, those who see this production will be encouraged to not give up when circumstances threaten one’s existence or well-being.  Curtis Mayfield and the theatre’s portrayal of his life deserve much applause. He is a Chicago legend.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...