‘Tis the season to think about love, and whether you’ve got the “Dirty No-Gooder Blues,” are “Taking a Chance on Love” or you’re “Just a Lucky So-and-So” there’s a song that will speak to your heart in Creative Cauldron’s swinging production of Blues in Night.
A loosely tied together jukebox musical centered around the songs of blues stalwarts such as Bessie Smith, Blues in the Night features almost no dialogue and even less plot. It is ostensibly about a night in a blues club with a cheating man and three women who fell under his spell.
So take Blues in the Night for the revue that it is, and Creative Cauldron will give you a lot to enjoy. Backed by a tight four-piece combo headed by Walter “Bobby” McCoy, the company attacks each number with exuberance. Though the sum of all of the songs together don’t add up to an arc, thanks to the skill of the cast, each song feels like its own individual, clearly interpreted story.
While all of the performers are good in their own way, Iyona Blake steals the show as The Lady. She is by turns heartbreaking (“Wasted Life Blues”) and funny (like during the very suggestive “Kitchen Man”), and does it all with vocal skill and emotional depth. More than anyone else in the cast, she feels grounded in the world of the show and the style of the music. Rounding out the able cast are Katie McManus who brings her warm, rich vocals to the role of The Woman, Raquel Gregory-Jennings as the emotional, youthful Girl and the energetic Clifton Walker, III as the mischievous, but possibly unreliable, Man. Each has both stand-out solo moments and executes tight and seemingly effortless harmonies.
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Blues in the Night
closes March 5, 2017
Details and tickets
From the intimate blues club set, to the blue-tinged lighting, to the period-esque costuming, this production has atmosphere in spades. It is evocative of a booze-soaked, nostalgia-tinged wee-hour of the morning after a late night on the town. Often times, musicals feel too large for small spaces. The music is overwhelming or the choreography feels constrained. But here, director Matt Connor, choreographer Stephen Gregory Smith and the design team have admirably created a show that fits beautifully within the Creative Cauldron space, as if Blues in the Night were meant to be performed there.
The songs are the real star of this show and they run the gamut from cheeky to sexy and painful to empowering. Fans of Bessie Smith and her contemporaries will no doubt be treated to an evening of favorites, but those who are less familiar, like me, will be introduced to some real gems by people who know how to sing them, such as “Rough and Ready Man,” performed with lusty humor by McManus, and the affecting “No One Knows You When You’re Down and Out.”
Watching Blues in the Night is like drifting away in a smoky, heady cloud of music.
Blues in the Night conceived and originally directed by Sheldon Epps. Directed by Matt Connor. Music direction by Walter “Bobby” McCoy. Choreography by Stephen Gregory Smith. Featuring Iyona Blake, Raquel Gregory-Jennings, Katie McManus, and Clifton Walker, III. Scenic and costume design by Margie Jervis. Lighting design by Lynn Joslin. Stage managed by Nicholas J. Goodman. Produced by Creative Cauldron. Reviewed by Amy Couchoud.