The stroke of midnight is not only the finale for New Year's Eve celebrations, but also the all-important key plot point for the classic tale of "Cinderella."
No one knows this more than the clever and talented Jackie Taylor, founder of Chicago's always entertaining Black Ensemble Theater.
Her theater company has made it a holiday tradition to annually stage Taylor's original version of everyone's favorite glass slipper story, which she calls "The Other Cinderella," written, produced and directed by Taylor, with choreography by Rueben Echoles.
It opened on Nov. 29 and though the clock is ticking, there's still a few chances to catch a performance since it continues until Jan. 13.
Taylor describes "The Other Cinderella" as "the most successful of all of the Black Ensemble Theater productions."
After all these years, I finally saw it for the first time and there are few productions I've ever been so entertained by, especially with all of Taylor's clever twists and turns with the story and characters.
"The Other Cinderella" has been a favorite of Taylor's audiences since 1976, boasting what Taylor calls "an Afro-centric twist."
There's my favorite character, the "Stepmama," who works as a grouchy U.S. Post Office clerk (haven't we all met one of these?) and played to perfection by Dawn Bless. One of her mean stepdaughters is played by Lisa Beasley, who hails from Gary and has a bright future as a talented comedienne. This year's beautiful Cinderella is Ta-Tynisa Wilson, who is an ideal fit for this glass slipper. And as her "Fairy Godmama," (who flies in from Jamaica," it's A'rese Emokpae behind the wand.
"The Other Cinderella" is a perfect show for all ages, featuring original music, exciting dances and a heartwarming story that reminds audiences of the greatness of the human spirit.
As with all Black Ensemble Theater productions, Robert Reddrick serves as musical director backed by the entire band including Reddrick on drums, Tracy Baker on bass, Herbert Walker on guitar and Mark Moultrup and Andrea Moore on piano.
Taylor herself starred as the very first Cinderella in her own production back in 1976 after she opened her original Black Ensemble Theater at 1429 N. Wells. But because of a turn-of-events, she nearly had her original story and "Cinderella" production taken from her after her financial backer claimed to own the rights and formed his own version in the suburbs. Rather than a fairy godmother, Taylor said she had the late great Chicago gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet use his writing pen instead of a magic wand to help remedy the situation.
"He wrote a column item about this incident and urged his readers to see my version of 'Cinderella,' " she explained.
And 35 years later, Taylor's "Cinderella" is still the belle of the ball. Plus, Taylor feels quite a bit like Cinderella once again these days. Last year, she finally moved into her own "palace," by opening her own performance space at Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago.
Tickets are $55 for Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday matinees; and $65 on Fridays, Saturday evenings, and Sunday matinees. There's a 10 percent discount for students, seniors, and groups. FYI: (773) 769-4451 or BlackEnsembleTheater.org.