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They’ll raise your interest: It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.

My Blue Heaven

By James Yeara

It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues

By 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.

It 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.

 


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