REVIEW: Low Down Dirty Blues (Northlight Theatre)

Cheer up with some low down blues

 Low Down Dirty Blues018

  
Northlight Theatre presents
   
Low Down Dirty Blues
   
Created by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman
Directed by
Randal Myler
Music direction by
Dan Wheetman
through July 3rd  | 
tickets: $39-$54  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

‘How can I be over the hill if I never made it to the top?’ Life musings are chatted and sang about afterhours at a Chicago South Side nightclub… interestingly, it’s a Saturday afternoon in Skokie. Northlight Theatre presents the world premiere of Low Down Dirty Blues at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Created and directed by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman, Low Down Dirty Blues is a show  Gergory (2940) vfeaturing a collection of blues songs intermingled with life stories from the singers. Big Mama’s, a fictional nighttime hotspot, has been created onstage with the authentic look that transports the audience from northern suburbs to the urban South Side.

Low Down Dirty Blues is a tribute to a passing musical genre. The performers sing the blues about singing the blues. Originating in the 1920’s, blues songs were a voice for the African American culture during an oppressive time. Over the decades, the musical stylings have been glamorized and made famous by Chicago. Without the severity of segregation and discrimination conditions, the blues have become more playful – no matter what the political or social climate is, men and women will always be trying to get their mojo working. Low Down… is an evening of sultry, sexy fun that makes you ‘Shake Your Money Maker.’

‘My Stove’s in Good Condition” is one of many song titles that would appear mundane. But the way Felicia P. Fields sings about cleaning her range, puts household appliances on the aphrodisiac list. The sexual innuendos are belted out with soul and sass. Fields uses her powerful voice to warn men ‘Don’t Jump My Pony’ if you don’t know how to ride. She’s hilarious! In the very familiar ‘Good Morning Heartache,’ Fields transitions from her bawdy self to melancholy with sweet sadness. The songs are relationship advice with good natured wisdom interspersed with memories of bad times. The charming Mississippi Charles Bevel sings mischievously about where to put his jelly and later poignantly about ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ Gregory Porter shares personal despair singing ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ as the target of female angst. Later, his rendition of ‘Change is Gonna Come’ is gospel-quality inspirational. Leading the magnificent singing quartet, Sandra Reaves-Phillips IS Big Mama. Playing an aged singer and nightclub owner, Reaves-Phillips holds court perched on a pile of pillows. From ‘They Call Me Big Mama’ to ‘Lord, I Tried’, Reaves-Phillips has the legendary blues voice. It’s deep and rich with crackly hints of a smoky lifestyle. Throughout the show, Reaves-Phillips makes side comments, slaps her ass and drinks from a flask. She is pure Blues Club Diva!

 

Gregory, Mississippi (front) h Felicia P. Fields, v

Under the musical direction of Dan Wheetman, the singing is sensational. Under the direction of Randal Myler, the performers share personal strife glimpses between songs. A lesson in blues history is mingled in with humor. There is a great joke about a Chicago’s tourist definition of blues. For a genre established in segregation, these blues aren’t your grandma’s depression. Low Down Dirty Blues is high up sexy fun!

SIDEBAR: Two trains, two busses, an hour commute to get to Skokie to hear Chicago Blues. It’s ironic and sad. I live a ten minute cab ride from Kingston Mines. Low Down Dirty Blues reminded me how much I enjoy this type of music. If I don’t start going to blues clubs again, ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine.’

  
  
Rating: ★★★½
  
  

   Low Down Dirty Blues013

Running Time: Eighty minutes with no intermission

Productions Personnel

 

Creators: Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman
Director: Randal Myler
Music Director: Dan Wheetman
Light Design: Don Darnutzer
Set Design: Jack Magaw
Sound Design: Victoria Delorio
Costumes: Rachel Laritz
Stage Manager: Rita Vreeland

Featuring: Felicia P. Fields, Gregory Porter, Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Frank Menzies, James A. Perkins, Jr, Michael Manson, Jon Speigel, Mississippi Charles Bevel

     
  

One Response

  1. […] etc (our review ★★★½)    Low Down Dirty Blues – Northlight Theatre  (our review ★★★½) Oh Coward! – Writers’ Theatre   (our review […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: