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Theater Review: Blues in the Night

(L-R) Jenna Byrd, Karole Foreman and Vivian Reed onstage at Ebony Rep. Photo by Craig Schwartz


Jenna Byrd. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Everybody has a right to sing the blues, but few sing (and dance) as well as the cast of Blues in the Night, now playing at Ebony Rep in West Adams. The show is a class act all the way, from those incredible performances to the exquisite costumes and set, to the two dozen classic songs performed by a blue-chip orchestra.

Karole Foreman. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Tony-nominated Vivian Reed leads a trio of blues-singing women. She is “The Lady from the Road.” Jenna Byrd is “The Girl with a Date.” Karole Foreman, who channeled Billie Holiday in Ebony Rep’s production of Lady Day at Emerson’ Bar & Grill, is “The Woman of the World.” All three have their individual moments to shine—and bring down the house when they combine their awesome forces, as on “Take It Right Back” to close out Act One. On the heartbreaking title song, their voices blend as though they’re carried on the wind as they sing about “that lonesome whistle/Blowin’ cross the trestle.”

Their costumes, designed by Kim Deshazo, come in jewel tones, both differentiating and uniting the women who wear them. Similarly, in a set by Edward E. Haynes, Jr., each woman has her own private space where she is alone to sing the blues she shares with the others.

Parris D. Mann. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Reed plays an older woman but her voice betrays her as a singer in her prime. A voice teacher who is her own best example, she gives a master class in vocal technique, giving new life to every song. Foreman and Bird are also virtuosos, able to bring joy and tears.

Plot is minimal, so don’t try too hard to figure out which of the three female leads has been hurt the most by “The Man in the Saloon” (Parris D. Mann). The lyrics tell a classic story of women wronged but still pining for the dirty dog. Despite their beauty and survival skills, they’d take him back in a heartbeat.

Watching Mann tear the house down in “I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So” and tap dance to “Take the A Train,” it’s easy to understand what they see in him.

Vivian Reed. Photo by Craig Schwartz

That beating heart is provided by the orchestra, under the direction of William Foster McDaniel. They do justice to the haunting melodies of Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Alberta Hunter, Johnny Mercer, Bessie Smith and other American treasures.

Blues in the Night has a running time of about two hours, including intermission. It plays  through December 5 at the beautiful Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W Washington Blvd. (one block east of Rimpau). Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm. Free parking is available in a lot at Washington and Vineyard; there’s also plenty of street parking. Tickets are $40 and are available here. All attendees must show proof of Covid vaccination and photo ID.


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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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