'I Am Who I Am' Pendergrass Bio-Musical Opens March 15 with Black Ensemble Theater

Jackie Taylor, founder and executive director of Chicago's Black Ensemble Theater, is proud to announce the World Premiere presentation of I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass). Produced, written and directed by Taylor, and featuring three new songs penned by Pendergrass and co-writer Bill Jolly, I Am Who I Am, begins previews March 7 at the Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon Street, with an official press opening on Saturday, March 15, at 8PM. Of note, a special Gala Opening benefit performance, with Teddy Pendergrass in attendance, will take place Sunday, March 16, at 3PM. 

Teddy Pendergrass gained recognition with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1972. His voice helped skyrocket the group to national success with hits like "I Miss You," "Bad Luck," and "Wake Up Everybody," to name a few.  In 1977, he went solo and his raw soulful style turned the music industry upside down!  He was the first African American singer to sell five platinum albums in a row, including TP and This Is Teddy Pendergrass, which produced hits like "Close The Door," "Turn Off The Lights," and "Joy." Pendergrass' career was soaring to unbelievable heights when, in 1982, he suffered a car accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down.  Pendergrass became a quadriplegic but didn't let this handicap detour his ambitions.  After a year of therapy he started recording again and hit the charts with such classic as "Love Language" and "Truly Blessed."  Again, this five-time Grammy Award nominated artist has made history, having survived as a quadriplegic for 26 years and accomplished what no other in his circumstance has been able to accomplish.  

Pendergrass and co-writer Bill Jolly penned three new songs specifically for I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass), including the title track, "I Am Who I Am," plus "This Far By Faith" and "A Mother's Love." 

Kevin Mcllvaine and RaShawn Thompson share the title role of Teddy Pendergrass; the cast also includes Carrie, Tony Dawon, Ati Kin D' Hayes, Rueben Echoles, Kristy Johnson, Melanie McCullough, Dawn Mitchell, Dwight Neal, Rhonda Preston, Billy Simmons, and Andre Wood.

Jimmy Tillman, Black Ensemble Theater's stalwart company musical director, serves as musical director for I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) and Thomas Washington serves as musical arranger. Musicians include Tillman (drums), Washington (piano), Rick Hall (guitar), Bernard Reed (bass), Hank Ford (tenor saxophone), Paul Howard (trumpet) and Bill McFarland (trombone).

The design team for I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) includes Glendar Howard (costumes), Carl Ulaszek (set), Denise Karzewski (lights), Ron White (sound) and Razor Griffith (stage management).

Beginning with preview performances Friday, March 7, I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) will be performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 8PM and Sunday afternoons at 3PM.  The official press opening will be Saturday, March 15.  Performances take place at the Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. 

Tickets, priced at $45 ($40 for previews), are available by calling the Black Ensemble Theater Box Office at 773-769-4451 or Ticketmaster at 312-902-1500, or visiting www.ticketmaster.com. Discounts are available for students, seniors and groups. 

A special Gala Opening performance of I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass), with Teddy Pendergrass in attendance, will take place Sunday, March 16, at 3PM and will raise funds for the transitional growth of the Black Ensemble Theater. Tickets priced at $250 include a pre-show reception with Teddy Pendergrass and prime seating for the performance; tickets priced at $150 include a ticket and post-show reception with the cast.  Benefit tickets are available by calling the Black Ensemble Theater Box Office at 773-769-4451.  For more information on the Black Ensemble Theater Company, please visit www.BlackEnsembleTheater.org or call 773-769-4451.   

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