Producer Eric Krebs, who helped shepherd It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues to Broadway and beyond, has conceived and directed a new blues musical with the hip, oxymoronic title, Good Time Blues, playing 3 PM Sundays and 8 PM Mondays beginning Oct. 15 at his John Houseman Theatre on 42nd Street.
The new Off-Broadway show, subtitled Nothin' But the Music, plays during times that Puppetry of the Penis is dark at the Houseman.
Genovis Albright of Harlem and Madame Pat Tandy of Newark perform over 40 blues songs drawn nightly from a well of 65 numbers, including "Birth of the Blues," "Kansas City," "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do," "I'm Your Hoochie-Coochie Man," "I Wanna Big Fat Daddy," "This Little Light of Mine" and "God Bless The Child."
In his travels, Krebs heard singer Tandy's work in New Brunswick, NJ, and Albright's work at a Christmas party at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Manhattan.
"When I produced It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues I fell in love with what the blues are and what they represent," Krebs said. "It's a very upbeat and life affirming way of looking at hardship. Ever since, I've been wanting to do a very small blues shows." Small is indeed the byword of the new piano-and-voice show, which uses the lighting of the Houseman's existing attraction, Puppetry of the Penis. The performers have minimal banter with the audience, and there is only occasional setup in the songs. There are 6-8 set pieces that open and close the two acts.
Is it a concert?
"It's an Off-Broadway show," Krebs insists. "The reason I have the chutzpah to call it that is that it's so much more: It's the personalities, it's a mini-history of the blues, they are truly actors — each song becomes a scene."
Krebs said when Albright and Tandy meld "One for My Baby" and "Stormy Weather" together — folding the numbers into one another first with accompaniment and then a cappella — it's craftsmanship on par with any musical theatre you might find in New York.
"It's a staged event," Krebs said. "Is it more than a concert? I like to think it is. It is the blues in blank a space — it wants to take you places."
The chemistry between vocalist Tandy and pianist-singer Albright — strangers to one another until Krebs paired them — was instant, Krebs told Playbill On-Line Oct. 11, days before the debut of Good Time Blues.
"They didn't know each other," Krebs said. "I brought them together a month ago. I introduced them to each other and they started playing together. After an hour and a half I had to stop them, because I had to leave..."
Savannah, GA, native Albright, sporting dramatic, lengthy dreadlocks, has performed across the United States and Europe. He has appeared Off-Broadway in The Time of Your Life and Impetta, and at Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Hall. He is the composer of several musicals, including Bones, Children of the Enterprise, Growing Up, Cry No More and Ups and Downs. His recordings have been released in the United States, England and Germany. He is also co-host of the weekly National Council for Culture and Art's "Opening Night" cable TV show.
Jacksonville, FL, native Tandy is a jazz-blues-R&B singer who performs throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania with the Tommy Gryce Trio. The group's recordings include "Our Day Will Come," released on Blue Lady Records. Tandy was the lead singer for the 70's R&B group the Pretenders, whose hit recordings included "I Call It Love" and "Just Be Yourself." Most recently, she played Queen Evillene in The Wiz at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Official opening is Nov. 12. Tickets to Good Time Blues are $30 (students and seniors $15 two hours prior to showtime). The John Houseman Theater is at 450 W. 42nd Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues). For tickets, call (212) 239-6200 or, for group tickets, call (212) 575-2220.
— By Kenneth Jones