The Melting Pot Theatre — which has in recent years brought out dramatic treatments of the lives of folk singer Woodie Guthrie (Woody Guthrie's American Song) and baseball great Ty Cobb (Cobb) — will conclude its look at another American icon when its latest show, The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith, closes on March 3. The production began previews Jan. 26 at Theatre 3 in Manhattan, opening Feb. 1. The play is presented in association with Penguin Repertory Company, which first premiered the show.
Joe Brancato, who directed Cobb, will guide Miche Braden in the title role. Angelo Parra penned the book. Brancato also conceived of the show, while Braden executes the musical arrangements of the 14 featured songs. The cast also includes Terry Walker on piano and Jimmy Hankins on bass.
Much of Bessie Smith takes place in flashback, at a 1937 concert just before the blues singer was involved in the car accident that cost her her life. (The long-held belief that Smith infamously bled to death after being refused entry at a series of "whites-only" hospitals — a theme treated in Edward Albee's The Death of Bessie Smith — has since been refuted by various sources.) During the concert, Smith ruminates on the sexual adventures, racism and alcoholism that marked her career, while singing such classics as “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Kitchen Man,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “After You’ve Gone.”
Tickets are $35; $25 for previews. Theatre 3 is located at 311 W. 43rd St. For more information, call (212) 279-4200.
— By Robert Simonson