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Actor brings ‘Jackie’ to town

Chester Gregory Gary native stars as singer Jackie Wils'The Eve Jackie.' Gregory is co-writer producer play. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Chester Gregory, a Gary native, stars as singer Jackie Wilson in "The Eve of Jackie." Gregory is the co-writer and producer of the play. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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If You Go

What: “The Eve of Jackie”

Where: The Black
Ensemble Theater,
4450 N. Clark St.,
Chicago

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 24.

Tickets: $45; call
(773) 769-4451 or
visit online www.blackensemble.org for more information.

Updated: April 9, 2013 10:58AM



Gary native Chester Gregory became a household name in 2003 playing the iconic singer/entertainer Jackie Wilson in the Black Ensemble Theater production of “The Jackie Wilson Story” for three years.

His amazing vocals and talent earned him national award-winning stints on Broadway, including productions of “Tarzan” as Terk, “Hairspray” as Seaweed, the national tour of “Dreamgirls” as James “Thunder” Early and “Sister Act” as Eddie.

Now the Emerson School of Visual and Performing Arts alumnus is branching out with a one-man show that has him once again, embracing the soul crooner who made his Broadway journey possible.

Gregory is the co-writer and producer of “The Eve of Jackie,” which premiered last month in New York City. The show sold out and Gregory started adding additional dates in New York and across the U.S.

He is bringing “The Eve of Jackie” to the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago for a one-night-only performance on March 24.

“This is definitely a full-circle moment for me to return to the theater where it all began,” Gregory said.

Theater founder and director Jackie Taylor said she is happy have Gregory come home to the Black Ensemble Theater. “This is Chester’s home ... always will be. I feel like my son is visiting me,” Taylor said.

While Gregory is reviving his portrayal of Jackie Wilson, fans of “The Jackie Wilson Story” will see a completely different the soul crooner oft remembered for “My Heart is Crying, Crying” in “The Eve of Jackie.”

Gregory and Crystal Lucas-Perry wrote “The Eve of Jackie” screenplay based on the eve before Wilson collapsed and died onstage Sept. 29, 1975.

“I wondered what the concept was like and what Jackie did the night before he died,” Gregory said, “so I created a dialogue with the audience and he is compelled to talk to them ... bring an entirely different side of Jackie and what might have happened the night before.”

The show is directed by Da’Vine Joy Randolph and the music direction is by Rob Lewis. Lillias White is also a part of the show as the R&B singer LaVern Baker, famous for the tune “I Cried a Tear.”

“People have approached me about doing Jackie Wilson again so this is my gift. The difference is I created a job instead of looking for one. It’s time to see what I can do on my own as an artist,” he said.



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