On a Sunday evening at the St. Holy Angel Catholic School, members of the Mahdi Theatre Company rehearse for their upcoming stage production of Bronzeville The Musical. The company’s debut of Bronzeville’s first ever broadcasted musical was back in 2016 at the Chicago Theatre. After it’s huge success, they are back to give another unforgettable performance.
Focusing on the strengths, including talented triple-threat individuals who can sing, act, and dance, Margaret Mahdi wants nothing more but to bring out the best in her company. As the producer, playwright, and director of the musical, Mahdi is motivated by Black history and encourages artistic expression through storytelling.
“We are great people. If it weren’t for Black life, Black culture, Black family, Black community we wouldn’t have a Chicago,” she said. “We also want to encourage young people, don’t vandalize and hurt your city, your parents and great grandparents went through a lot just to be here so let’s cherish what we built… hoping this story will generate inspiration and a greater value system, especially in our community.”
Bronzeville The Musical is a story about Black ancestors escaping from the treacherous South to the North to discover their own identities and establish their rightful independence, in Bronzeville, a south side neighborhood that has been the center of rich developments and contributions by Black Americans in Chicago. According to the Chicago Studies Department at University of Chicago, Black Chicagoans have endured hardships of racism since the 1900’s with The Race Riots, in particular, taking place in Bronzeville. The neighborhood has since represented resistance and the efforts of a community to redefine itself on its own terms.
The musical will feature passionate choreography and breathtaking voices with specific characters that each convey a message of love, family, and unity in hopes of changing the Chicago narrative.
The musical’s talent expresses how they motivate their co-stars by leading by example, showing up as the best version of themselves. They stress the musical’s significance to Chicago is showing what Black Chicago really is and steer away from the negative narrative that’s shown on the news — a city so much more than violence with lots of historical elements. Each actor found joy in stepping into a different time frame and finding similarities between them and the characters they play.
James Robinson who plays the character “John,” a father, shares his biggest takeaway for the audience.
“I hope they pay attention to everything. Chicago is a fantastic city and it’s more than the narrative that people could be seeing,” he states. “There’s a lot of history here, there’s a lot of people moving to Chicago for the art, culture, and for the people.”
Bronzeville The Musical will run from April 5th – April 14th at the Studebaker Theatre Performing Arts Center at 410 S. Michigan Avenue. Tickets are available at mahditheatre.com or fineartsbuilding.com.
By Jayla Johnson, Illinois State University Alum
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