Once Upon a People (A Dancesical)
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★★½ "'Once Upon a People,' an African-themed holiday show featuring a story about a pair of promised lovers who are not pleased with the arrangement, is the work of Rueben D. Echoles. This is a fine idea — I'd venture there are many Chicagoans who'd like to take their family to an Afrocentric family story, celebrating tradition and filling the senses with a riot of colorful costumes. And Echoles has found a very talented cast. He took on an enormous amount here: He's director, choreographer, music composer, lyric writer and writer of the book. Echoles is an exceptionally talented guy; I was impressed here by the actual musical compositions which, although chronically overamplified at Tuesday night's opening, were the beginning of something really cool. When we go to a family-oriented holiday show like this one, we tend to want to hold the story in our hand and find comfort in its lessons for our everyday lives. Echoles has the beginnings of that understanding, and he certainly has exuberant choreography to match his passion. But there is a good way yet for him to travel and such a journey, as the characters in his show well know, invariably is eased by having as much company as possible." -Chris Jones