Starting Sept. 9, the Tony-nominated musical revue, It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, gets to prove itself all over again. The show, which ended its stint at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre Aug. 29, now moves to midtown's Ambassador Theatre for an open commercial run.
When the production moves to the Ambassador, Ken Page, the Cats and Ain't Misbehavin' veteran who stepped in for Ron Taylor over the summer, will return to the troupe. Tony Award-nominated Taylor missed two months when he suffered a mild stroke in June. He returned to the show Aug. 24, for the final week of performances at the Beaumont.
Taylor, who helped devise the revue, will go to Los Angeles to help open the Los Angeles company, Nov. 13-Dec. 19 at the Geffen Playhouse. Official opening at the Geffen is Nov. 21. Eloise Laws, of the Broadway staging, will be part of the Los Angeles production, according to director Randal Myler. There are no specific plans for a tour beyond Los Angeles, but there is hope, according to Myler.
The Broadway company also includes "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Gretha Boston (who won a Tony Award for Show Boat), Carter Calvert, Laws, Gregory Porter and Dan Wheetman.
The musical, which was nominated for 1999 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Featured Actress (Boston) and Featured Actor (Taylor), was born and nurtured in regional theatres, including the Denver Center Theatre Company (where is began) and, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Crossroads Theatre Company and San Diego Repertory Theatre. It played Off-Broadway's New Victory Theatre before moving to the Beaumont at Lincoln Center. Though reviews were mixed and the show's weekly attendance at the Beaumont rarely climbed past the 50-60 percent mark, producers are hoping word of mouth, the show's numerous Tony nominations and an upcoming original cast CD release will spur ticket sales. The show has also tried to capitalize on its perceived snub at this year's Tony Awards: time was running short (owing to a lengthy and poorly-received tribute to the season's straight plays nominees) so a Blues production number -- including "Members Only" and "Let The Good Times Roll" -- was cut. Legal threats and charges of racism followed, though the Blues company did get to do the songs on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" the following week.
In order to capture the mercurial, living essence of the show's jazz and blues performances, Blues' cast CD was recorded live in front of an audience, Aug. 26-27, at the Beaumont. MCA Records, in association with Spencer Proffer, will produce and distribute the cast album. Release date is expected to be November. The cast being captured on disc is the original Broadway company, including Taylor.
Songs in Blues include "Fever," "Goodnight Irene," "Strange Fruit" and "I Put A Spell On You." For tickets and information on It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, call (212) 239-6200.