Friday, April 2, 2010


By D.E.Levine

Director: Jerry Zaks
Writers: Peter Martin Wortmann and Robert Conte
Cast: Jon Abrahams, Brett Beoubay, Marcia Lyle Brown, Joshua Davis, Marika Dominczyk, J.D.Evermore, Thomas Elliott, Lisa Goldstein, Ian Leson, Robert Randolph, Benjamin Pete Rose, Tendal Jaret Mann, Alessandro Nivola, David Oyelowo, Ryan Puszewski Chi McBride, Roy McCrerey et al.
Producers: Les Alexander, Andrea Baynes and Jonathan Mitchell
Executive Producers: Gideon Amir and Dennis A. Brown
Co-producers: Robert Conte and Peter Martin Wortmann
Original Music: Jeff Beal
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Country of Origin: USA
Language: English
Genre: Drama

Who Do You Love is the second recent film dealing with the creation of Chess Records and its mercurial owner Phil Chess. In 2008 "Cadillac Records" was produced and released by Sony Music Film starring Beyonce, and while interesting, it was made without the benefit of access to the Chess family and their records and papers.

Who Do You Love was backed by the Chess family and Leonard Chess' son acted as consultant. Although it doesn't have the star power of a Beyonce,veteran Broadway director Jerry Zaks has been painstakingly meticulous in the music score, actors and story.

Both films followed the rise of the record company from its inception. Based on the story that Leonard Chess, son of a Polish immigrant was influenced by the blues music that he heard in Chicago nightclubs in the early 1950s and talked his brother Phil into selling the family junkyard and opening a South Side nightclub, the Macomba.

Appealing to a primarily black audience, Leonard teams up with Willie Dixon and through him meets Muddy Waters and others whom he employs to make "race records."

Obsessed with business, Leonard strays from the home tuft and has affairs with a female singer who resembles Etta James.

Who Do You Love shows that Leonard made reams of money and didn't pay much to his artists, but history doesn't show how badly he exploited the artists so there's little to base it on.

We definitely know that Leonard Chess was responsible for recording singers and musicians who became top artist, and getting their records played even when he had to bribe the DJs. The film only takes us through the era of blues and when rock-and-roll began to emerge.

The performances are excellent although they may not draw as large an audience or gross as much without the draw of star power.

The score is wonderful and authentic. Stay through the credits to hear the complete range of music.