TV reality comes full circle at a "LIVE" taping of "Last Dancer Standing (More Than Hip-Hop)"--an eight week dance competition that pits some of the best dancers in the country against each other in a competition to win $100,000 and a tour with R&B singing sensation Justin Paul (Deverin Deonte)--that opened Sunday at Black Ensemble Theater (BET).
We, the audience, watch the eight-week dance marathon--from both behind the scenes and the weekly LIVE TV broadcast.
Video's above the stage light up for Applause...when the audience should say AWAWAW--and for a series of quotes that let us know what's going on in the contestants heads.
The competition kicks off as the top 12 dancers, weeded from many that came before them, head to the final competition. Two dancers are eliminated immediately and sent home with ten remaining.
Along the way we are treated to a variety of dance routines--including but definitely not limited to hip hop. We also watch as the tension builds, conflicts arise and lessons are learned.
The original book by BET’s Associate Director Rueben Echoles gives us a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes world of the newest (fictional) reality dance competition. With a nod to "Dancing With the Stars" the show has its full share of humor, tension, drama and conflict.
It's lively, it's fun, filled with song and live music from the always sensational on-stage band under the direction of Robert Reddrick.
The physical staging is stark--a characteristic of most BET productions--in order to let the actors and the jazzy costumes (Cherise Thomas) shine.
In addition, there is a message. BET productions always give the audience something a little extra to think about along with the feel good song, dance and music. Two important messages that come across in "Last Dancer Standing" are to treat each other kindly by respecting our differences and that Black Lives Matter.
The cast of 22 includes the show’s host, Radiant Michaels (Alexis J. Roston) who is trying to escape the shadow her superstar mother the sensationally voiced Evette Michaels (Sharl Addison) and make it on her own; R & B singer and show judge masterly played by Justin Paul (Deverin Deonte); Sebastian (Andre Teamer), who is in charge of running the show and also one of the judges; and the lovely Launa (Lauren Wells) who is the third judge.
An interesting and talented mix of dancers showcase a big man who can dance--the dynamic Junior White, a gay man, a white male, two white females and three black girl friends who help each other out during the competition.
Although the show was a bit uneven at times and could use some editing, overall it is entertaining. With the "LIVE" taping, the audience gets to play along with the story even having the opportunity to choose the "Last Dancer Standing."
Tickets are available at the Black Ensemble Box Office located at 4450 N. Clark St in Chicago, online or by phone at (773) 769-4451.
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Filed under: Theater in Chicago