2016 the Year in Review: Pivotal Chicago Moments in Entertainment

Hamilton Chicago
Hamilton Chicago Cast

2016 the Year in Review: Entertainment

Defender Arts & Entertainment Editor, Mary L. Datcher

An abundance of entertainment in Chicago through arts, culture, music and theater was endless. The Broadway hit “Hamilton” added to the craze of theater-goers while influencing new ones through this awesome hip hop musical, walking you through the life of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. 

The play by Lin-Manuel Miranda is based on the Ron Chernow biographical book, Alexander Hamilton, and found a second home in Chicago with a young and talented cast. It is one of the hottest tickets in town, but it can also be attainable by a select daily lottery where a certain amount of tickets is released  — selling seats to winning applicants for $10 per person for matinee shows.

‘Formation’ Tops Tours 

Taking Chicago by storm this summer was Beyoncé’s “Formation” tour, which played at Soldier Field for a two-night engagement. One of the most anticipated concerts left fans wanting more, dealing with the pouring rain for the opening night at Soldier Field. This tour has set the bar on a higher level for all others to reach.

For the first time, the state of social and racial issues was reflected throughout her show, revealing the influence of how important the Black Lives Matter movement is to young followers.

Making an impression on “Queen Bey” is not easy, and two young men from the South Side of Chicago have had the pleasure of raising her eyebrow.

Photo Credit: Mary L. Datcher
Photo Credit: Mary L. Datcher

Chance the Rapper Reigns

Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa are musical creators and friends who have formed a creative bond. The two are the most notable members of the Save the Money crew, a group of young, talented artists featured on many of their songs.

Combining the influence of Gospel, Juke, Hip Hop and Jazz music, Chancellor Bennett has led the charge with his latest project, “Coloring Day,” which dropped in June. An independent artist who has gone against the traditional path of signing with a major record label, his formula for streaming his music and offering his music for free has changed the game for music providers. His influence has led the Grammys to include streaming for artist nominations in this year’s categories.

For the first time, Chance recently made history, working with the Illinois Sports Authority Facility (ISAF) to bring the very first music festival to White Sox baseball park. In September, the “Magnificent Coloring Day” Music Festival was held featuring some of the biggest names in music — Common, John Legend, Two Chainz, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and others.

With close to 40,000 attendees filling the ballpark, the concert brought thousands of young people to the Bridgeport neighborhood — a community that has historically carried the reputation for being racially intolerant of Black neighbors over the years. The seven-time Grammy nominated and NAACP Image Award’s artist made history breaking through barriers.

His non-profit organization, Social Works, produced a special “Parade to the Polls” rally prior to election day in Grant Park.

Leading a group of nearly 700 young voters to the polls, Social Works have created a brand that encompass the awareness of artistic expression through various outlets of social change, politics and community outreach. 

Oscars Backlash

Black Hollywood kicked off the year with their distaste at the lack of diversity at the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The protest on social media went viral and the filmgoers chimed in on what many industry insiders and working actors of color have known all along — very few people of color hold positions of power in Hollywood.   

The first African-American president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, went into high gear to have conversations and begin the process of inviting more producers, screenwriters, directors and actors of color to become voting members of the academy. Similar to the Recording Academy (NARAS), votes are accumulated based on industry members.

fencespicBreakout Films

This year’s film releases have not only provided a larger list of theater releases but a refined group of major studio support of African-American talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

From Disney’s release of “Queen of Katwe.” “Hidden Figures,”“Fences” and the critically acclaimed indie film “Moonlight,” this year’s awards season will be a refreshing change from the last one.

Stream On!

As distribution outlets increase, they open up more opportunities for filmmakers to sign production deals through streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.  At the top of the list, the new season of “Orange is the New Black” and Marvel Comics’ “Luke Cage”, both on Netflix, kept viewers engaged with the subscription service.  

lukecagepic1“Luke Cage” became the most watched series, bringing in the highest new subscribers. Its star, Mike Colter, plays the comic hero who fights villains in a modern-day version set in the heart of Harlem. The sexy, deep voice and muscular presence of Marvel’s newest eye candy attracted more female fans than its typical male base. 

Black Stars Lead on TV Networks

Shows such as “Empire,” “Black-ish,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” continue to hold their own as new network shows star African-American actors in lead roles, such as HBO’s “Insecure”, FX’s “Atlanta,” Fox’s “Pitch,” “Lethal Weapon” and Lee Daniels’ new show, “Star.”

Not to mention the plethora of reality show television series that have revitalized many unknowns and some that needed a renewal injection to jumpstart their careers. From the second season of “Black Ink: Chicago,” Mariah Carey’s “Mariah’s World”, K Michelle’s “My Life”, to the spinoff of “Love and Hip Hop” star, Stevie J.,reality shows can someday make U.S. presidents.

Trevor Noah has become television’s leading comedy show host who cleverly explains the American political process in such a realistic and blunt manner that is simply “classic’” As the new host for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Noah has transitioned into Jon Stewarts’ former chair without a hitch. 

OWN Gives Viewers Quality Programming

Since her final bow on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the media mogul has relocated to Los Angeles, where she’s committed to building the OWN Network brand.

In the last four years, Winfrey has applied her signature blueprint to providing a platform for quality programming, throwing her hat in the prime time ratings arena.

queensugartvShows such as “Super Soul Sunday,” “Haves or the Have Nots” and “Sweetie Pies” introduced original content from the network, but this year’s new additions included television dramas “Greenleaf” and “Queen Sugar,” with compelling storytelling.

Before season one of “Queen Sugar” aired, OWN renewed season two of the Ava DuVernay-produced show. It was just that good, and in the same path that Black social media showed Shonda Rhime’s “Scandal,” “Queen Sugar” was an overnight hit.

The beautiful cinematography captures the countryside of Louisiana as its backdrop, introducing a talent ensemble cast that includes veteran actress Tina Lifford; HBO’s True Blood favorite Rutina Wesley, and newcomersKofi Siriboe and Dawn-Lyen Gardner.

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