UPTOWN — The epic love story of Roger Ebert and his wife, Chaz, began with a smitten film critic finding the courage (and excuse) to approach the black attorney a few tables over.
The courtship and marriage of the couple, along with Roger's 10-year battle with cancer is the subject of a new production "The Black White Love Play" at the Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N. Clark St. The musical opened on Sept. 26 and will run until Nov. 15, according to a news release for the show.
"Together, they crossed boundaries and defied social conventions at a time, not long ago, when interracial couples drew sideways glances, even for a well-respected public figure like Roger Ebert," the release said.
Ebert has said he was smitten by his wife before he ever knew her name, contriving a reason to spark a conversation with her as he dined with another columnist and returning with her phone number. That story is the introduction to the musical conceived, written and produced by Jackie Taylor, CEO and founder of the Black Ensemble Theater.
“I am honored that Jackie wants to share our story. When Roger died, many friends told me that our love was a life force for them, too. Maybe that’s because he always focused on compassion and what unites us,” Chaz said.
Roger wrote constantly about the "angel at his side" and Taylor used excerpts from Roger's bio-pic "Life Itself" and interviews with Chaz to detail their 20-year romance. The performance borrows an Ancient Greek device "where the chorus narrates the action via poetry, song and dance. The song list includes some of the couple’s favorites, including the song from the first dance at their wedding and an excerpt from the first Lyric Opera performance they saw together, 'Tosca,'" according to the release.
“Ancient Greek theater was based on a celebration of the Greek gods. I chose this form because in this story we are honoring love, and love is the greatest of the gods," Taylor said.
The cast stars Rashada Dawan as Chaz Ebert, Kevin Pollack as Roger Ebert. The Chorus, whose members play multiple roles, includes Evelyn Danner, Rueben Echoles, Porsche King, Robbin Major, Jhardon Milton, Matthew Payne, Jessica Seals, Kyle Smith, Sally Staats and Qween Wicks, according to the release.
Tickets for matinees on Thursday and Saturday cost $55. Tickets for evening shows on Friday and Saturday, along with Sunday matinees, are $65. Tickets can be bought here.
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