PICKSINSIX Review: LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
“DANCING TO THE BEAT OF LIFE”
All you need to know is … The seven-year-old future zoologist CJ is on his way to his Nana’s when we meet him in the opening moments of the world premiere of Last Stop on Market Street directed by Henry Godinez now playing at the Chicago Children’s Theatre. He is savvy enough for his age, but not comfortable in a neighborhood vastly different from his own and is nervously counting down the hours until he will be back at home with his parents and his aptly-named canine pal, Doggy. With only the security of his backpack, a few bucks in his turtle pillow, and his cell phone, tablet and headphones, CJ is not at all prepared for what comes next. After first applying sugar, Nana tells it like it is and draws a line by singing “All you need to know is that I said so!”
A glorious, inspiring and heartwarming journey … As you might imagine, things get off to a rocky start, mostly because CJ is convinced, as most seven-year-olds are, that he is in charge. That begins to change as the two embark on Nana's regular crosstown adventure to the other side of town. Through her wise and insightful observations, CJ learns that the excitement of discovery is as much in the journey as it is in reaching the destination. And what a glorious, inspiring and heartwarming journey it is!
Bowl of soul … The new musical adapted by Cheryl L. West with a hip score by Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son, Paris Ray Dozier, is based on the 2016 Newbery award-winning children’s book written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Add the considerable stage and vocal talent of E. Faye Butler, a terrific ensemble with musical direction by Andra Velis Simon, ingenious staging(John Musial), choreography(Stephanie Paul), costumes (Izumi Inaba), sound(Ray Nardall) and lighting(Alexander Ridgers), and with a bus that appears virtually out of nowhere, Last Stop on Market Street is truly a “bowl of soul” for all ages.
Magical chemistry … Parents and fans of the book, written for preschoolers, will thoroughly enjoy this expanded stage version of the touching story of a bus ride across town for a young boy, played at the Saturday afternoon opening performance by the endearing Kei Rawlins (sharing the role with Alejandro Medina) and his no-nonsense Nana, the incomparable Butler. There are a lot of lessons to learn and this show is a real conversation starter for youngsters five and up. Every one of the fascinating characters influence CJ in his quest for answers including (in multiple roles): the bus driver, Mr. Dennis (Breon Arzell), the blind musician, Vernon (Jesse Bhamrah), the rapper Tat Man (Brian Keys), Butterfly & Posey (Melanie Brezill), and a young homeless girl Jojo (Kirra Silver).
Every morning brings a new song … the Dozier score rocks a range from the jiving opening company number “Hello, Goodbye” to the poignant “Servin’ Up Love” … Butler’s “Cause I Said So” and “Praise the Lord” are terrific. You are sure to be humming “The Beat of Life” on the way home.
Next stop: Minneapolis … Director Godinez and his team have created an ingenious, colorful panorama of urban neighborhood locations. For those of us without prior knowledge of the material, our discovery is as fulfilling as CJ’s. For that reason alone, you should climb aboard and make a date to see this show running through May 27th. Bring a youngster. Support the Greater Chicago Food Depository with a donation. Buy the book in the gift shop and get ready for a heartwarmingly wonderful hour of entertainment. After the CCT engagement, the next stop: Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, also directed by Godinez.
CHICAGO CHILDREN's THEATRE
A New Musical
LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET
through May 27th
100 S. Racine Avenue
For more reviews, visit: Theatre In Chicago