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It Aint Nothin But the Blues Denver

By this time, you realize Earl and Emmett will never get rich; worse, theyll never get funny, either. The blue language in Adam Resnicks scripts Nobody appreciates church folk moren me, Earl says, I pray my ass off every damn night is as unlikely as the social commentary Fascists make communists look like the June Taylor dancers, Emmett notes. Former Letterman aide de camp Robert Morton, billed as an executive producer in the premiere, was gone by episode two. Me, too. Jeremy Gerard

With:
Cast: Lita Gaithers, Eloise Laws, Carter Calvert, Mississippi Charles Bevel, Chic Street Man, Ron Taylor, Dan Wheetman. So immense is the reservoir of blues and its peripheral eddies that any effort to do more than suggest its abundance is bound to seem sketchy. Given that, It Aint Nothin But the Blues achieves intensity and inescapable energy. The tumultuous songs and their renditions by a superb group of singers and musicians make the production surge. The fact that many of the songs are traditional does nothing to lessen their freshness. The spontaneity of delivery captivates. The work began as a 45-minute touring production from the Denver Center Theater Company for area schools, and was presented in an extended version in 1995. For this newer version (which moves to the Washington Arena Stage in November and plays through Jan. 19), Andrew Yelusich has devised a new design scheme and a few songs have been eliminated in favor of a shorter running time.

It Aint Nothin But the Blues Denver

Production: A Denver Center Attractions presentation of a Denver Center Theater Company production by Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor and Don Wheetman, based on an original idea by Taylor. Directed by Myler. Musical staging, Donald McKayle; vocal direction, Gaithers.

Crew: Sets, Andrew V. Yelusich; costumes, Patricia A. Whitelock; lighting, Don Darnutzer. Additional development and musical arrangement by Chic Street Man. Producing director, Barbara E. Sellers. Opened, reviewed Oct. 22, 1996, at Auditorium Theater; 2,090 seats; $ 42 top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

With: Cast: Lita Gaithers, Eloise Laws, Carter Calvert, Mississippi Charles Bevel, Chic Street Man, Ron Taylor, Dan Wheetman. So immense is the reservoir of blues and its peripheral eddies that any effort to do more than suggest its abundance is bound to seem sketchy. Given that, It Aint Nothin But the Blues achieves intensity and inescapable energy. The tumultuous songs and their renditions by a superb group of singers and musicians make the production surge. The fact that many of the songs are traditional does nothing to lessen their freshness. The spontaneity of delivery captivates. The work began as a 45-minute touring production from the Denver Center Theater Company for area schools, and was presented in an extended version in 1995. For this newer version (which moves to the Washington Arena Stage in November and plays through Jan. 19), Andrew Yelusich has devised a new design scheme and a few songs have been eliminated in favor of a shorter running time.With the exception of one singer, the vocalists remain the same. In one number after another, there is an overpowering drive that keeps feet tapping. As ensemble, there is spirit and power, and the cast of singers is strikingly diversified. From native tribal chants of authentic majesty, the music moves into the raw power of the mournful music of slavery, in a series of traditional songs. But the narrative thread that seemed strong in the previous production pales as the evening progresses, and it becomes more a succession of songs than an excavation of blues. The incorporation of songs from the southeastern hill country is engaging but thins out the total impact as it takes the emphasis away from the subject: the blues. Nevertheless, when Lita Gaithers sings St. Louis Blues, she erases all memories of wannabe blues singers. She creates it anew, blistering and triumphant. Her Eye Is on the Sparrow sings fervently of faith, and in rare exultation she lifts her voice to uncanny heights. Eloise Laws uses her beautifully cushioned singing in a voluptuous Dangerous Blues, and an even more torrid My Man Rocks Me, keeping her sophistication intact all the while. Carter Calvert does an elegant Fever, sizzling as she sings of what a lovely way to burn. She also does a flamboyant and funny Now Im Gonna Be Bad. Ron Taylor is large in voice, presence and body, and has a down-home ease which makes his Bluesman a vital offering. His Hoochie Coochie Man seemed over the top. But he was back in business with The Thrill Is Gone. A singer known as Chic Street Man delivered the sultry, sexy Crawlin King Snake and nearly stopped the show, and made his own Rag Man a high point. Mississippi Charles Bevel has a delightfully unassuming manner which makes his Walkin Blues and I Cant Stop Lovin You moments of pleasure. Don Wheetman, the shows musical director, plays guitar and harmonica, and sings personably to make Pallet on the Floor and Mind Your Own Business songs deserving of being shared. Randal Mylers direction moves the production along smartly, reaching the required spontaneity, while Donald McKayles musical direction furthers that quality gracefully. Andrew Yelusichs scenic device with its three screens allows for projection of some memorable but in the end distracting photography. With the cast coming together at the end to sing Let the Good Times Roll, there is ample good feeling to spread. Except that the blues are a 3 oclock in the morning mood rather than a beautiful morning feeling: Something got lost with the intimacy of It Aint Nothin But the Blues in the translation to a touring production. Allen Young

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