Cotton Club pays tribute to black musicians

Singers such as the late Etta James and Whitney Houston were brought to life as the past became the present Saturday evening.

Students paid tribute to African-American performers throughout history by covering gospel, hip-hop and R&B artists as part of “Cotton Club,” an annual celebration of Black History Month. This year’s “Back to the Future” theme gave performers the chance to play the part of artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Jay-Z.

Saturday’s variety show at Foellinger Auditorium was the culmination of six months of work by more than 100 students and faculty members. Approximately 1,500 students, local community members and people from all over Illinois filled the nearly 2,000-person capacity venue.

After his first time attending “Cotton Club,” Romel Moore, theatre arts major at Parkland, said he was impressed by the production and thought the performers did a great job.

“The biggest thing was the amount of preparation and expertise it takes in imitating these acts,” he said.

Ashley Myles, producer of “Cotton Club” and programming chair of the Central Black Student Union executive board, said she was pleased with the show’s presentation and the crowd’s reception.

“I’m really happy that (the audience) appreciated the hard work,” said Myles, junior in Business.

The University’s Central Black Student Union organized the event along with sponsorship by the Student Affairs Programming Coordinating Council, Central Residential Funding Board and University Housing.

Crasha Perkins, adviser of the Central Black Student Union executive board, said preparations for “Cotton Club” began in September with the selection of nine executive board members. Myles and the other executive board members then selected the show’s theme and began holding auditions for the show’s performers.

Artists auditioned for the opportunity to portray famous acts. After they were selected, they worked with the executive board to select appropriate acts to fit into the show’s script.

Since November, the show’s performers have met three times per week for three-hour practices, with the board meeting an additional three hours per week, Myles said. She said there were not any major problems throughout the production’s preparation.

They worked together so well that they were even able to include a last-minute three-song tribute to Whitney Houston, Perkins said.

“This board was so creative,” Perkins said. “They just did an excellent job.”