While playwright James Baldwin had the Blues for Mr. Charlie, and Pearl Cleage has the Blues for an Alabama Sky -- Sheldon Epps has the blues of a different kind -- a revival of Blues in the Night at the Cleveland Play House, Mar. 31-May 3.
Set in a seedy bar, the show explores the lives of three women and a saloon singer during the course of a long memory-filled evening through a combination of classic blues and jazz songs from the 1920s and '30s. Epps said he had specific reasons for picking the songs he did: ". . .the most important function is to celebrate a great period and style of American music and to explore the influence and the roots of the jazz idiom as it grew from blues music ... And so in this celebration the blues melodies of Bessie Smith, Jimmy Cox, Alberta Hunter and others are mixed and contrasted with songs of Harold Arlen, Andy Razaf, Johnny Mercer and other jazz greats, to paint the full spectrum of this great American musical form."
This is not the first collaboration between Epps and the Play House, he directed their production of The Philadelphia Story in 1992. Epps' latest, Play On!, received three 1997 Tony nominations. Blues premiered on Broadway in 1983 and was Tony-nominated for Best Musical of the Year.
Blues in the Night runs Mar. 31- May 3, at the Cleveland Play House. For tickets or more information call (216) 795-7000.
-- By Sean McGrath