By Kenneth Jones
28 Jul 2000
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, the Tony Award-nominated revue of blues music that played Broadway April 1999-January 2000, will revisit Manhattan in a streamlined 90-minute version at The B.B. King Blues Club beginning Aug. 20.
Producer Eric Krebs is giving the show a second life in Manhattan on a six-show-per-week, Sunday-to-Wednesday schedule that will allow the 450-seat nightclub's headliners play prime weekend gigs. Official opening is Aug. 28.
It Ain't is an open-ended run, and the company will make Thursday-Saturday jaunts to theatres around the country for a national tour concurrent with the New York residency. On certain dates, the company will take a week off from the New York run to play on tour.
Krebs said as far as he knows this is the first time there has been a deal worked out with Actors' Equity to have a New York production and a "non-contiguous production-contract tour" at once, "so it's almost like having two contracts."
Krebs told Playbill On-Line that this kind of venture -- a reinvention of a Broadway musical in a midtown nightclub setting built for the sort of music the show celebrates -- is "really an odd and creative thing." In the streamlining, about 20 minutes will be cut.
Co-creator and original director Randal Myler will helm the B.B. King company, which features members of the Broadway cast, including "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Carter Calvert, Gregory Porter, Cheryl Alexander (a Broadway understudy) and Michael Mandell (currently of the production that has been a summer hit at the Kennedy Center, in the role created by the show's co-conceiver, Ron Taylor). There are two performers yet to be cast.
The full two-act version of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues completes a sold-out run at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theatre July 30 (it opened there June 20). It moves on to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta Aug. 1-6.
Tickets to the open-ended B.B. King Blues Club run of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues are $50, with discounts for groups. The performance schedule is 3, 7 PM Sunday, 8 PM Monday-Tuesday, 2, 8 PM Wednesday.
The B.B. King Blues Club is at 243 W. 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.
Tickets are expected to be on sale by phone by Aug. 7. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200 or (for groups of 20 or more) try (212) 967-7079.
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) and Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Crossroads Theatre Company and San Diego Repertory Theatre.
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.
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.
Songs in Blues on Broadway included "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."
The national tour of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues in fall 2000 will stop at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids, MI, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL, Weidner Center in Green Bay, WI, Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN, Braden Auditorium in Normal, IL, Music Hall Center in Detroit, Moore Theatre in Seattle, and elsewhere.