Doo Wop SHoo Bop, Black Ensemble Theater. This musical revue’s starry prom-night setting is perfect for reliving the days of towering bouffants, crinoline skirts, and shoes that point into 45-degree angles. It was the 50s, and doo-wop–which combined clarion harmonies and melodies infused with gospel and jazz–was the prevailing form of African-American music, and therefore of American pop music.
To cap off its 25th-anniversary season, the Black Ensemble Theater has remounted the show, featuring the music of artists like the Shirelles, the Platters, and the Ink Spots. The cast includes some outstanding vocalists. Vince Harris oozes sex appeal as caddish Jackie Wilson and supercaddish James “Shep” Sheppard. Terry Lloyd Price’s baby face belies his big voice. And Rhonda Preston as Dinah Washington and Phyllis Overstreet as Ruth Brown are so passionate you want to lie down in agony right beside them.
The songs are joined by Jackie Taylor and Jimmy Tillman’s sociohistorical narrative describing the hardships suffered by black musicians of that era: white record producers would pilfer black music and flood the market with covers by white musicians ranging from Elvis to Pat Boone. At times the production drifts into earnest edu-tainment. Nevertheless, Doo Wop Shoo Bop makes an ideal outing: you have to clap to the beat and either rock in your seat or leap to your feet.