Conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, Blues in the Night is a passionate and energetic revue of classic blues songs of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Driven without a narrative storyline, the setting is a seedy Chicago hotel where three women emotionally bare their longings, heartbreaks, and inner strength. Performed by Yvette Cason, Paulette Ivory and Bryce Charles, the characters are, respectively, identified as “The Lady from the Road,” a warm and beautiful woman in her late 50’s or early 60’s immersed with memories of her brighter past, “The Woman of the World,” stylish and surrounded by perfume and liquor bottles preparing for her gentleman caller, and “The Girl With a Date” who sits in a sparsely decorated room determined to make a fresh start in the big city. Playing a counterpoint to these women is Chester Gregory as the “The Man in the Saloon” who laments his desire for a better life.
Each woman’s powerful torchy solos and their combined melodious harmonies pull us deep into the feelings expressed through songs including “Am I Blue?” (Harry Akst, Grant Clarke), “Blues in the Night” (Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer), “Dirty No-Gooder Blues” (Bessie Smith), “Four Walls (and One Dirty Window) Blues” (Willard Robison), “I’ve Got A Date With A Dream” (Mack Gordon, Harry Revel), “Lover Man” (Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez, Jimmy Sherman), “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (Bessie Smith), “When a Woman Loves a Man” (Bernard Hanighen, Gordon Jenkins, Johnny Mercer, “Willow” (Ann Ronell). Counterpointing the heartfelt sorrow, the man struts and taunts with “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues” (Ida Cox)
Sweetening the sorrowful moments, we are treated to the playfully raunchy sexual innuendos of songs like “Kitchen Man” (Andy Razaf, Alex Bellenda), “Rough and Ready Man” (Alberta Hunter), “Take Me For a Buggy Ride” (Leola Wilson, Wesley Wilson).
The vocal performances are supported by a live on stage band conducted by Lanny Hartley (pianist), Kevin O’Neal (bass), Randall Willis (reeds), Louis Van Taylor, Lance Lee (percussion), and Fernando Pullum (trumpet).
Originally staged in the early 1980’s, Epp’s was excited to substantially evolve this production from its conception with original musical arrangements by Chapman Roberts and additional vocal arrangements by Sy Johnson, Scenic Design by John Iacovelli, Costume Design by Dana Rebecca Woods, and Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal.
The 150 seat Lovelace Studio Theater is a wonderfully intimate venue to experience and enjoy this moving tribute to the legendary styling of American jazz and blues that revels in a music that celebrates inner personal strength and survival. See Blues in the Night — Extended through May 27, 2018; http://www.TheWallis.org