Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Low Down Dirty Blues

Also see John's review of Babalu

Sandra Reeves-Phillips, Mississippi Charles Bevel, Felicia Fields and Gregory Porter
The Florida Stage, in conjunction with Northlight Theatre, presents the Southeastern premiere of Low Down Dirty Blues by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman. This new musical from the creators of the Tony-nominated It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues celebrates the sound of the Chicago blues. For decades, blues artists have captivated audiences with the "Dirty Blues"—music packed with passion and soul, and liberally laced with sexual innuendos and humor. Low Down Dirty Blues features songs made famous by blues greats, the likes of Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin' Wolf, Pearl Bailey, Willie Dixon and Sunnyland Slim.

The setting is Big Momma's Blues Club in southside Chicago just after midnight. The Florida Stage has placed the audience around, and in some cases even in the middle of, a smoky, well worn blues club with modest cocktail tables bearing bottles of whiskey. Live musicians tucked into the back of the club play the blues the way it should be played. Scenic designer Jack Magaw has gone the extra mile to give the club an authentic feel that allows the performers to look as at home as if they'd played that club every night for months. The show is structured like a nightclub set with a minimum of dialogue. All of the spoken text taken from actual interviews with blues singers.

Though oddly the program does not include a song list, the selection of sensuous and soulful blues songs are gloriously sung by all four cast members. Sandra Reaves-Phillips (Big Momma) has fierce stage presence and a singing voice that is rich and dark and rough. It is a voice that personifies the sound of the blues. Felicia P. Fields' voice is smoother around the edges, and her stage presence is both playful and commanding. She is completely comfortable unscriptedly flirting at length with audience members. Mississippi Charles Bevel handles himself with a certain slickness that belies his age. His light and lyric voice is without weight or strain. Gregory Porter has a mellow, round baritone voice that approaches a romantic sound (if they wrote romantic blues songs). The four performers sing the blues as though they've lived it—and that really is what the blues and good theatre are about.

For the inaugural production in its new home at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, The Florida Stage has chosen a show that shines with talent and sizzles with style. Low Down Dirty Blues is 90 minutes of blues at it's best!

Low Down Dirty Blues will be appearing at the Florida Stage through September 5, 2010. The theater is located at the Rinker Playhouse of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts at 701 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach, FL. Florida Stage performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30 p.m.. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or visiting

Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network. They are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Development Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. The Florida Stage remains the only professional theatre in Southeast Florida producing exclusively new and emerging works.

Mississippi Charles Bevel*
Felicia P. Fields*
Gregory Porter*
Sandra Reaves-Phillips*

Director: Randal Myler
Music Director: Dan Wheetman
Scenic Design: Jack Magaw**
Lighting Design: Don Darnutzer**
Sound Design: Victoria Delorio**Costume Design: Rachel Laritz**
Production Stage Manager: Suzanne Clement Jones*

* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

**Designates member of United Scenic Artists

Photo: Ken Jacques Photography

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere