Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Magical Evening of Blues in the Night
I saw this musical in both New York and London is the early 1980s. Since that time the the blues musical has rarely been produced, though Pasadena Playhouse did a presentation in 1995.
Blues In the Night is a cabaret production featuring a collection of some of the best blues standards like "Taking a Chance on Love," "Lover Man," Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Blues in the Night." The female singers play characters named Woman of the World (Freda Payne), Lady From the Road (Carol Woods) and Girl With a Date (Paulette Ivory). The three women occupy different shabby rooms that are very detailed by scenery and lighting designer Douglas D. Smith.
Carol Woods (Broadway Follies, Chicago, Smokey Joe's Café) is an outstanding red hot mama. Her big, commanding voice brings down the house with the Bessie Smith number "Wasted Life Blues" in the second act. For a complete change of pace, she sings the charming "Take Me For a Buggy Ride" by Leola and Wesley Wilson with an outfit straight out of the Flora Dora Girls. Ms. Woods belts out George W. Thomas's "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues" and gives a sensual rendition of Andy Razaf and Alex Bellenda's hilarious "Kitchen Man."
Freda Payne (Broadway Sophisticated Ladies, Ain't Misbehavin', Jelly's Last Jam and Hallelujah Baby) plays the worldly Woman of the World who lived the jet set life and now wants it back. Her voice is smooth as silk in her presentations of "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "It Makes My Love Come Down." Her svelte appearance and velvet voice remind me of Lena Horne.
Paulette Ivory (acclaimed London singer/actress who has appeared regularly on the West End Stage) is wonderful as the young lady who is still hopeful for a man to love. She has exquisite vocal cords on Vernon Duke, John LaTouche and Ted Fetter's "Taking a Chance on Love," Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep for Me" and the Bessie Smith number, "Wasted Life Blues."
Maurice Hines (Uptown It's Hot on Broadway, for which he received a Tony Award nomination), as The Man In the Saloon, comes in and out of the two-hour production singing with his distinguished voice Duke Ellington and Mack David's "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and Ida Cox's "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues." Hines comes into his own in the second act when he stops the show with a dazzling display of tap.
The three women are harmoniously energizing singing H. Grey's "Take It Right Back," Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues."
Blues in the Night plays at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post Street, San Francisco through Sunday September 30th. For tickets please call 415-771-6900 or on line at www.ticketmaster.com.