Carla Gordon and Ensemble: Blacklisted

| March 30, 2016

Carla Gordon and Ensemble


Skokie Theatre, Skokie, IL, February 28, 2016

Reviewed by Pam Peterson for Cabaret Scenes

Carla-Gordon-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212In the lobby of the Skokie Theatre for the sold-out performance of Carla Gordon’s Blacklisted, bearded spirited folk guitarists serenaded the crowd with “If I Had a Hammer.” Folks sang along to… “It’s the bell of free-ee-dom…” 

Sadly, the writer of that song, Pete Seeger, was silenced   during  the   1950s, along   with  hundreds of   other    artists    suspected   of   Communist    ties.  Blacklisted transported us into this dark moment in history, when innocent Americans lost jobs during the government’s crusade to conquer the “Red Menace.”

The pre-show audience was drawn to a screen with slowly-shifting publicity shots of famous artists from the Hollywood Blacklist. Many audibly expressed surprised about some of those featured.

With a perfect balance of history, personal anecdotes and commentary, Gordon welcomed us to Blacklisted. She then introduced Joan Curto, who honored Judy Holliday with a swinging “Just in Time.” Saluting Charlie Chaplin, Wayne Richards melted hearts with Chaplin’s original “Smile” (lyrics: John Turner‎, ‎Geoffrey Parsons). Rabbi Barry Schecter’s violin solos added pathos.

Honoring the lesser-known Hazel Scott, Beckie Menzie delivered “Honeysuckle Rose” —stoking up  a showstopper. Yip Harburg was represented with “Old Devil Moon” (music: Burton Lane) and “Over the Rainbow” (music: Harold Arlen) sung beautifully by Paul Motondo, and the witty “When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich,” was skillfully handled by Gordon.

Lyric baritone Robert Sims poured soul and tenderness into Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim’s “Maria.” Later, in tribute to Paul Robeson, he presented an alternate version of “Ol’ Man River” containing bold protest lyrics written by Robeson.

Other spotlighted blacklisted artists included Elmer Bernstein, Lena Horne, Zero Mostel, Marc Blitzstein and Chicago’s own Studs Terkel. All selections were treated masterfully by this exceptional cast.

In closing, Gordon sang her original “Prayer for America,” written with Richards.  One parting comment, “In politics, there is a bully in every era,” drew chuckles. Gordon continued, “You might think there’s a bully currently in our political system. But we are not naming names.” Again we laughed, grateful that HUAC interrogations are over, yet wary nevertheless.

All joined on the finale, “God Bless America,” rising organically to a standing ovation.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, Chicago, Chicago Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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