Monday, July 26, 2010

Theater Review by Irv Rikon: LOW DOWN DIRTY BLUES at Florida Stage

FLORIDA STAGE has broken new ground in two ways. It's left its long-time home in Manalapan and is now located inside THE RINKER PLAYHOUSE at THE KRAVIS CENTER, just down the road from us on Okeechobee Boulevard. And it's opened with a Southeastern Premiere, Low Down Dirty Blues, which is something we haven't before seen in our local theaters, a musical blues revue.

What is "the blues"? I confess that when Count Basie or Duke Ellington played something they called "the blues," that was much the extent of my knowledge on this art form. So that when Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman create this show starring four terrific singers/entertainers my head and toe-tapping feet are throughly engaged and enthralled. I'll quote the publicist, who describes what's here: "Featuring songs made (in)famous by the likes of Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin' Wolf, Pearl Bailey and many others, Low Down Dirty Blues is a rousing, raucous, musical good time." I quote him because he's right.

The thing I hadn't fully realized previously is that the blues have enormous range and variety. The first group of songs has sexual innuendos, but they give way to songs of pain and laughter and, finally, some with religious overtones. But always there's a spirit that's utterly infectious, and one gets caught up in it. The show also has bits of dialogue that serve as background and provide insight into where the songs ultimately came from.

The theater itself is somewhat difficult to describe in the context of this show, because a large section of what I assume will be customer seats in future productions this time around has tables and chairs where audience members can sit (for an extra charge) and become part of the show when one of the performers engages them in playful conversation.

For most white folk, this is a different kind of musical. But it's so entertaining, that when you've seen one "blues," you want to see more. In short, FLORIDA STAGE'S debut at the Kravis Center hits all the right notes.

This production runs through September 5. For reservations and additional information, telephone 585-3433 or online: Warning: all matinee performances at this theater will now begin at 1:30 PM. All evening performances begin at 7:30 PM.

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