The Broadway and regional musical, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, makes its Detroit debut Dec. 12-16 in a resident co-production by Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and Plowshares Theatre Company, at the Music Hall.
Janet Cleveland directs a Detroit cast that plays out the history of the blues, from plantation chant to jazz to rock 'n' roll. Singing with a five-piece band, the company includes Priscilla Price, Sheila Alyce Slaughter, James Bowen, Annie Palmer, Brett Rominger and Augustus Williamson.
Among the 50 musical numbers are "I'm Your Hoochie-Coochie Man," "Goodnight, Irene," "Fever," "Walkin' After Midnight," "The Thrill is Gone" and "Let the Good Times Roll."
Plowshares is Detroit's major professional African-American theatre company.
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues tickets range $32-$42. Music Hall is at 350 Madison in downtown Detroit. For information, call (313) 963-2366. *
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues was nominated for 1999 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Featured Actress (Gretha Boston) and Featured Actor (Ron Taylor), was born and nurtured in regional theatres, including the Denver Center Theatre Company (where it began in 1995) and Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Crossroads Theatre Company and San Diego Repertory Theatre.
The regional stagings that came before the show's New York debut at the New Victory Theatre prior to Broadway were directed by co-creator Randal Myler.
The musical incorporates traditional blues and its pop variants, with performers filling in the gaps with historical or personal narrative. The book is by Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor and Dan Wheetman. It played Off Broadway's New Victory Theatre before moving to the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center April 26, 1999. It moved to the Ambassador in early September 1999, continuing to January 2000. It later re-opened Aug. 28, 2000, in a streamlined 90 minute version at The B.B. King Blues Club in Manhattan.
In order to capture the mercurial, living essence of the show's jazz and blues performances, Blues was recorded in front of an audience, Aug. 26-27, 1999, at the Beaumont. MCA Records, in association with Spencer Proffer, produced the cast album.
— By Kenneth Jones