NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Porchlight shines a spotlight on Blues in the Night
Mon. February 14, 2022 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Porchlight Music Theatre is presenting a musical review from the '80s called Blues in the Night at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street, now through March 13.
Set in a hotel in 1938, the stage is divided into three rooms full of appropriate furniture from the time period, plus a tiny performance area with a microphone next to a dynamic five-piece band. The plot is conveyed through various classic blues songs with very little dialogue mixed in to tie a story together.
Even the characters' names are vague with Felicia P. Fields playing The Lady from the Road, Donica Lynn as The Woman of the World and Clare Kennedy portraying The Girl with a Date. Evan Tyrone Martin is The Man in the Saloon and Terrell Armstrong is all over the stage as The Dancing Man.
The trio of Lady, Woman and Girl all have varying moments in the spotlight that show their strengths and weaknesses. Fields is especially effective and learned many moons ago how to connect with an audience. It was a smart move to have her lead the cast while tackling the iconic Bessie Smith in "Take Me for a Buggy Ride" and "Wasted Life Blues."
A show such as Blues in the Night begs for audience participation but struggles to have that happen with masks covering up people's expressions and reactions to the overall piece. Clapping in response to performances throughout this show is now more necessary than ever, so ticketholders should come prepared to support them in the cause. Blues music tends to summon up strong feelings of sadness and despair. It is important to see where this originates whether it is addiction or mistreatment by other human beings. The cast does a good job in conveying this pain throughout Blues in the Night and they keep things as upbeat as possible.
The band is its own character and these musicians are pros. Armstrong's dancing highlights some nice moments throughout the show both in front and behind the skrim.
When everyone comes together the singing simply soars on tracks such as "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues/Lover Man" in the first act and "I Got a Right/Blue Blues" in the second act.
This musical review doesn't copy the original production exactly and finds its own voice in the process. For those that are looking to support entertainment during Black History Month, this is a worthy show that will remind spectators of the legacy of many blues artists that have since passed on. Blues in the Night is historic, haunting and full of heart.
Hurry over to see Porchlight's new project Blues in the Night after purchasing tickets at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org or by calling 773-777-9884. This is one "Baby Doll" that is "bound to drive your momma wild!"