The company of Northlight Theatre's production in Skokie, IL, also features two-time Jeff Award winner Mississippi Charles Bevel (Broadway's It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Gregory Porter (It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues) and Sandra Reaves-Phillips (national tours of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, One Mo' Time, Further Mo' and Raisin). Fields, a Chicago staple, was Tony-nominated for playing Sofia in The Color Purple on Broadway; she later appeared in the Chicago leg of the tour.
Myler and Wheetman are the creators of Broadway's 1999 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. Myler directs Low Down Dirty Blues, with musical direction by Wheetman.
Performances play to July 3. Previews began May 27. The production then moves on to an engagement at Florida Stage, as the inaugural production in that troupe's new home in West Palm Beach.
Here's how Northlight characterizes the show: "When the crowd goes home for the night, the real show begins! At least that's the case at one local Blues bar, where musicians gather after hours to swap stories and songs filled with passion, soul and an authentic love of the Blues that can't be described, but demands to be played. Inspired by Blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin' Wolf and Pearl Bailey, this low down dirty jam session pays tribute to a musical form that's steeped in Chicago history — and alive and thriving today!"
Myler and Wheetman had this to say in a statement: "The Blues has always had an 'earthy' quality. It has been the voice of a people caught in economic and social situations that have kept one entire social sector of the country under the thumb of another sector through the 'Jim Crow' laws and through narrow fields available for economic gain. Out of this environment, their voices found expression in the celebration of Life in all its facets. From the first blues songs (known as 'jump ups,' 'work songs' and 'hollers'), the Blues has dealt with subjects other musical styles have either avoided because of social stigma, or overlooked due to lack of understanding or experience. In the early 1920s women like Sippy Wallace, Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie and Alberta Hunter sang songs with a 'ragtime' feel and a lyric as explicit and real as the world they lived in. Men like Charlie Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Bo Carter and the Chatmans sang heartbreaking songs of a life bound in invisible chains of prejudice and poverty while also singing joyous songs of sexual freedom and their freedom of movement. All of these were testaments to freedom, and all exemplified the Low Down Dirty Blues." The designers are Jack Magaw (set design), Rachel Laritz (costume design), Dan Darnutzer (lighting design) and Victoria DeIorio (sound design). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
The musicians are Frank Menzies (piano), James A. Perkins Jr. (guitar), and Michael Manson (bass) and Jon Spiegel as the musician contractor.
Myler was a Tony Award nominee for Best Book of a Musical for It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. He also wrote and directed the Off-Broadway hits Love, Janis and Hank Williams: Lost Highway, for which he received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. His writing and directing projects include co-creating and directing Fire on the Mountain and Mama Hated Diesels, co-adapting and directing Touch the Names: Letters to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and directing Union City (with Rosie Perez) and the musical version of The Immigrant.
Wheetman shared a Tony Award nomination for Best Book for It Ain't Nothin But the Blues. His play Appalachian Strings, written with Randal Myler, has been performed around the country. He composed and served as musical director for the stage version of John Irving's The Cider House Rules.
For ticket information, call (847) 673-6300 or visit northlight.org.