Black Ensemble Theater's You Can't Fake the Funk is about the music. And the music will make you dance!

Black Ensemble Theater's You Can't Fake the Funk is about the music. And the music will make you dance!
Vincent Jordan, Jayla Williams-Craig, Stewart Romeo(top), Dwight Neal (bottom), Brandon Lavell, Thera Wright. (Photo Credit Alan Davis)

Jackie Taylor’s Black Ensemble Theater is debuting a new play You Can’t Fake The Funk, A Journey Through Funk Music.  Directed by BET's Daryl Brooks, the musical commemorates the soulful and danceable ‘funk-style' music, a genre made popular by artists like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Sly Stone.

(L Photo) Thera Wright, Vincent Jordan, Stewart Romeo, Dwight Neal. (Right) George Clinton

(L. Photo) BET Ensemble's Thera Wright, Vincent Jordan, Stewart Romeo, Dwight Neal (Photo Credit Alan Davis). (Right) George Clinton.

Funk music or 'P-Funk' (Parliament Funk) is the love child of soulful R&B tempos of the '70's.  The funky grooves are mixed with extra oomph from the bass guitar with a combination of heavy drums and a brassy horn section.  Because of its global popularity over the past three decades, music lovers can now select the 'Funk Music' category from music program guides on satellite radio, music streaming and music television channels.

(Left Photo) Sly Stone. (Right Photo) BET Ensemble's Stewart Romeo.

(Left Photo) Sly Stone. (Right Photo) BET Ensemble's Stewart Romeo (Photo credit Alan Davis).

Artists like James Brown, Rick James, and Parliament Funkadelic helped distinguish the funk sound that gave birth to hit songs like Cold Sweat, Bustin’ Out,  and the popular Atomic Dog“This is music that my younger staff was raised on,” said Jackie Taylor, founder and director of Black Ensemble Theater. “I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson and Dionne Warwick, but that big-band funk sound is what the younger folks in the late ’70’s were listening to.”

(Left Photo) BET ensemble's Vincent Jordan. (Right Photo) Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.

(Left Photo) BET ensemble's Vincent Jordan (Photo credit Alan Davis). (Right Photo) Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Daryl Brooks is at the helm of You Can’t Fake The Funk, A Journey Through Funk Music.  He's also the Producing Managing Director at Black Ensemble Theater.  As the play’s writer and director,  Brooks says he wanted to create a place where you can leave your troubles in the lobby and be ready to party.  “Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard the Mothership,” states Brooks. “There is no music today that has not been influenced by the funk.  My hope is that you will be dancing in the aisles and leave feeling full of pure unadulterated funk!”

Brooks tells the story of how the 'funk' sound was inspired by the music and dance scene of the ’70’s and ’80’s.  He takes the audience through a chronological ’mothership’ journey that uses George Clinton’s 1975  Mothership Connection album as its pilot.  "I wrote the play so it can be a big party and a good time," said Brooks, "celebrating a genre of music that survived decades."

You Can’t Fake The Funk showcases BET's multi-talented ensemble that includes Dwight Neal, Jayla Williams-Craig, Stewart Romeo, Blake Hawthorne, Lemond Hayes, Thera Wright, Vincent Jordan and Brandon Lavell.  It features a soulful seven piece band directed by Robert Reddrick and elaborate costumes and wigs designed by Rueben Echoles.

Brooks wasn’t able to attend the press opening  but gave a shout-out to his cast and crew though a post on FaceBook. “As I drive to NC for the National Black Theatre Festival, I want to give a big happy opening to the hard working cast, crew and musicians of You Can’t Fake the Funk!  Put some stank on that funk, ya dig!"

You Can’t Fake The Funk, A Journey Through Funk Music is a non-stop, high energy musical that celebrates renowned artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, the Brides of Funkenstein, Cameo and Curtis Mayfield.  Performances are scheduled now through to Sept. 22 at the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago.  Tickets can be purchased by visiting BlackEnsembleTheater.org.

About the Author:  Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism who has taught at Kennedy-King College of Chicago, UCLA Extension Journalism Department and Columbia College Chicago.  Don’s Emmy nominated documentary A Star For Marvin Gaye will premiere this fall on Amazon Prime Video.

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