They’ll raise your interest: It Ain’t Nothin’
But the Blues.
Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues
Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor, and
Dan Wheetman, directed and choreographed by Alan Weeks, musical
direction by David Malachowski
Capital Repertory Theatre, through April 9
At 4:47 PM this past Saturday, a miracle occurred on North
Pearl Street inside Capital Repertory Theatre. After 43 minutes
of singing and playing and talking about the blues, from its
African roots to its growth along the Mississippi, from its
chanting ritual origins to it bawdy-naughty teasing, the cast
of six (Rob Barnes, Cicily Daniels, Jonathan Rosen, Julie
Tolivar, Carole Troll, Juson Williams) of this self-titled
“musical revue,” aided by the crisp four-piece band (lead
guitarist David Malachowski, Gary Burke on drums, bassist
Bob Green, and Pete Levin on keyboard) not only got the sold-out
house to stand up, but to also clap with the music. In time.
Loudly. For five minutes.
As miracles go, it can’t compete with bread, fish and the
multitude (or Lake Placid and the Russians), but It Ain’t
Nothin’ But the Blues got the hitherto silent and still
audience up; the singers and band got the people moving, with,
of all things, “I Know I’ve Been Changed” and “Children, Your
Line Is Draggin’, ” songs more attuned to temple than a theater.
While earlier numbers like Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues”
and the Bessie Smith-esque “My Man Rocks Me” momentarily stopped
the program flipping, with “Catch on Fire” (“I wish somebody’s
soul would catch on fire with the Holy Ghost”), they clapped
and clapped. If the Hudson were a little closer, there would
have been baptisms.
Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues is nothing to be discounted.
It doesn’t have a story; the simple painted jungle backdrop
scrims and the wooden shanties up left and upright don’t add
much; and the occasional spoken dialogue by the cast are mostly
musty lines that even talent can’t make sound fresh. The cast’s
flirting with the audience in Act Two, however, made up for
the weakness of the connecting dialogue. Usually singers or
musicians bantering with an audience betrays a feigned interest
on everyone’s part, but this cast had the audience nestled
to their bosom.
Once they got the audience up, Act Two was pure sugar-loving.
It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues pleases, from the purple
vested Williams strutting his stuff on “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie
Man” to Daniels’ sinuous “I Put a Spell on You” (Daniels has
more sex appeal in the movement of her arms, hands, and fingers
than in all the hips of all the belly dancers in the harems
of our imaginations), to the smartly seductive “Fever,” with
Tolivar giving full-throated ease to every note. Tolivar singing
“Fever” may haunt your dreams, too.
If you like music, if you like singing, if you like to move
in your seat, clap your hands, tap your feet, and just plain
feel, Capital Rep’s It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues
is for you.