By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz
09 Jan 2000
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues will play its last Broadway note at the Ambassador Theatre Jan. 9, but producer Eric Krebs told Playbill On Line a national tour will begin in Atlanta in August, and the world is next.
The revue of blues music's roots and branches continues to Jan. 9, accommodating any overflow holiday business and expected visits from members of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, gathering in Manhattan. Business has not been good lately: The week of Dec. 20, the small-cast show played to 23 percent of its capacity, according to Variety.
By its close, Blues will have run 276 regular performances and 5 previews on Broadway, at both the Vivian Beaumont and Ambassador theatres.
There is strong interest in a national tour that will debut in Atlanta Aug. 1, Krebs said. No dates are announced yet. He also said there will be stagings in Australia, Germany and Japan.
A sellout, spinoff run at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles closed Jan. 2.
The Broadway production's producers are Krebs, Lawrence Horowitz, CTM Productions, Anne Squadron and Chase Mishkin.
The musical, which 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) and Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Crossroads Theatre Company and San Diego Repertory Theatre.
It incorporates traditional blues and its pop variants, with performers filling in the gaps with historical or personal narrative. 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.
The show lost a major publicity opportunity at the 1999 Tony Awards: When time was running short (owing to a lengthy and poorly received tribute to the season's straight-plays nominees),a Blues production number on the award telecast was cut.
Legal threats and charges of racism followed, though the Blues company did get to do the songs on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" the following week.
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, at the Beaumont. MCA Records, in association with Spencer Proffer, produced the cast album, which is currently only available at the theatre. No wide release date has been set.
Songs in Blues include "Fever," "Goodnight Irene," "Strange Fruit," "Members Only," "Catch on Fire," "Children, Your Line is Dragging," "Sweet Home Chicago" and "I Put a Spell On You." For $35-$75 ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.
Co-creator and performer Ron Taylor missed two months of the show when he suffered a mild stroke in June. He returned Aug. 24, for the final week of performances at the Beaumont, where the live cast album was recorded.