Resident theaters have had the blues; now it's New York's turn.
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, the blues-history revue popular with Arena Stage audiences in 1996, opens the new season of the San Diego Repertory Theatre Sept. 25, prior to two more resident stagings and a run, March 25-April 11, 1999, at the New Victory Theatre in New York City.
It Ain't Nothin', based on an idea by Ron Taylor, continues at the San Diego Rep through Oct. 25 and will waft later this season to the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ, (Nov. 17-Jan. 3, 1999) and then to Alabama Shakespeare Theatre in Montgomery (Jan. 19-Feb. 21, 1999). The three nonprofits are co-producing the show, which has been slightly revised since 1996.
The New Victory and the New 42nd Street, in association with the three resident companies, will present the show at the 500-seat New Victory for 5 student shows and 16 public performances, according to Alabama Shakespeare managing director Kevin Maifeld and Crossroads production manager Timothy O'Connell.
Crossroads' O'Connell, handling New Victory production details from the Crossroads office in New Brunswick, confirmed the New York dates. New Victory, specializing in children's and family shows, recently announced the It Ain't Nothin' booking in its programs. With a demographic crossover appeal to audiences in "middle school and above," the eclectic, multimedia exploration of the roots of the blues -- from slave field songs to Appalachian music to rock 'n' roll -- would seem a likely candidate for some kind of commercial interest after the New Victory showcase in Manhattan.
"I don't think we ever do a show without the hope of (a commerical transfer) in mind," O'Connell told Playbill On-Line Sept. 25.
It Ain't Nothin' is directed by Randal Myler (Appalachian Strings) and written by "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Myler, Ron Taylor and Dan Wheetman. Don MacKayle choreographs.
"It's not a showy spectacular, and it's not a drama," explained Alabama's Maifeld, adding that's the revue is different from what's in New York right now (although the folky Smoke on the Mountain was staged briefly over the summer at the Lamb's Theatre Off-Broadway).
It Ain't Nothin' boasts six singers, three men and three women, and a band of five. The regional cast will perform in New York.
Maifeld said the show is appropriate for young people because "they forget where music comes from" and the purpose it served -- poor Appalachian folks, he said, sang it "to relieve misery." He said the revue includes historic slides to express the panorama of the blues.
For San Diego Rep (79 Horton Ave.) information, call (619) 544-1000.
For New Victory Theatre (209 West 42nd Street) information, call (212) 382-4020 or (212) 239-6200.
-- By Kenneth Jones