If, like me, you missed Yahdina U-Deen as Nina Simone in Black Ensemble Theater’s The High Priestess Speaks two years ago, you can stop kicking yourself now and hustle over to Evanston’s Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. U-Deen’s back, channeling the fierce, fiercely talented Simone in a new show, Between the Keys, written and directed by FJT artistic director Ebony Joy (who also wrote The High Priestess Speaks).
The script provides a primer on Simone’s life: religious upbringing in the segregated South, prodigious piano talent and ambition, rejection by the Curtis Institute of Music because of race, transformation by necessity into a singer, stardom, alcohol, and fiery activism. But the main thing is the music. Backed by an onstage trio, her costume a minimalist black leotard, U-Deen performs 19 songs, including “I Loves You Porgy,” “I Put a Spell on You,” and “Mississippi Goddam.” She doesn’t play her own piano; otherwise, what she delivers is hardly distinguishable from Simone’s gorgeous, intense originals. Through August 10: Sat 7 PM, Sun 3 PM, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston, 847-448-8254, $7-$15.