By Kenneth Jones
28 Aug 2000
It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, the Tony Award nominated revue of blues music that played Broadway April 1999-January 2000, officially re-opens Aug. 28 in Manhattan in a streamlined 90-minute version at The B.B. King Blues Club.
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 499 seat nightclub's headliners play prime weekend gigs. Previews for the hybrid piece -- a theatre show in a blues venue -- began Aug. 20. The open-ended booking in the theatre district nightclub has the potential to capitalize on crossover audiences: luring both theatregoers and music fans.
Co-creator and original director Randal Myler helms the B.B. King Club company, which features members of the Broadway cast, including "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Carter Calvert, Gregory Porter, Cheryl Alexander (a Broadway understudy) and Michael Mandell (who performed the two-act version of the show when it played the Kennedy Center and Atlanta in the summer, in the role created by the show's co-conceiver, Ron Taylor). Debra Laws and musical director Jim Ehinger round out the cast.
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.
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. There is no food or drink minimum.
The B.B. King Blues Club & Grill is at 243 W. 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue. It is owned by Danny and Steven Bensusan, who also own and operate New York City's The Blue Note.
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 in 1995) 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 the revised Blues include "Let The Good Times Roll," "I've Been Living With The Blues," "I'm A Blues Man," "St. Louis Blues," "Now I'm Gonna Be Bad," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Wang Dang Doodle," "Someone Else is Steppin' In," "Please Don't Stop Him," "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "Crawlin' King Snake," "Mind Your Own Business," "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Can't Stop Lovin' You," "The Thrill Is Gone," "I Put a Spell On You," "Fever," "Walkin' Blues," "Come On in My Kitchen," "Crossroad Blues," "Goodnight, Irene," "Strange Fruit," "Someday We'll All Be Free," "Members Only."
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.