1407 Euclid Avenue
Through Sunday, March 10, 2013
Wednesday - Saturday Evenings
Saturday and Sunday Matinees
1:30pm, Thu 2/28
Acclaimed Performer Miche Braden Stars in Bessie Smith Musical
One of the signs that a show is going to be great is when you arrive at the theater and take your seat and the set on stage is spectacular. So it is for the Cleveland Play House production of “The Devil’s Music-The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith” now playing at the Allen Theatre on PlayhouseSquare.
The stage is a recreation of what was known as “Buffet Flats”. These were small privately owned unlicensed clubs that catered to those who were not welcomed in the regular “white heterosexual” clubs. It was a place where African Americans could gather to drink, gamble or engage in erotic behavior in a private place away from segregated society.
There is a small bar, an easy chair with table and lamp, some stairs going up to “the rooms”, a grand piano and beautiful accents to give the room a vintage look and feel. The trio (made up of Jim Hankins as “Pickle” on Bass, Gorge Caldwell on Piano and Keith Loftis on Saxophone and clarinet) begins to play a sad blues number and you find out that Bessie Smith was buried that day with 7,000 people attending. Time is suddenly set back to her last night and Miche Braden makes her grand entrance from right in the audience belting out “Bad News Blues”.
The evening takes off from there as Bessie works the crowd for all she’s worth singing thirteen fabulous hits in between telling about her life up to that point. I guarantee you will laugh, cry, reminisce, sing and cheer with Bessie as she belts out the blues. This is a no holds barred, winner takes all slug fest of musical theater. Bessie tells it like it is and she ain’t about to worry if you’re the blushing sort.
Let me also talk about the musical trio. Finally, here is a group of musicians that are more than just a stage prop. There is real interaction between themselves and Bessie and the music is tight and clean. I would buy a ticket just to hear them play. Put all the elements together of set, lighting, sound, songs, acting and music and brother you have a runaway hit on your hands. It was no wonder that there was a simultaneous cheering standing ovation when the show finished off with a rousing encore. Judging by the expressions and happy chatter of the departing audience members you could tell that this is a huge hit.
The Cleveland Play House production of The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith is conceived and directed by Joe Brancato and is running in the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare through Sunday, March 10, 2013. Tickets are available by calling 216-241-6000 or online at www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith is sponsored by Kulas Foundation and is produced with support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and the Ohio Arts Council.
ABOUT THE PLAY
The term Red Hot Mamma was virtually invented for the great blues singer Bessie Smith. Even though she was the most successful entertainer of her time, her life was one of sadness and tragedy. The show takes place on the eve of her tragic death in 1937 as she take the stage one last time to relive her amazing life and career. Sit back and soak in the real music of the blues as she performs “St. Louis Blues”, “Need Sugar in My Bowl”, “Bad Mood Blues”, “Dirty No-Gooder Blues”, I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out” just to name a few.
Born a daughter of a preacher, Bessie Smith was able to climb out of abject poverty to be one of the greatest and most influential singers of the 1920’s. Surviving a turbulent childhood, a rich lifestyle, stormy marriage, loss of her fans as well as the prevalent racial prejudices of the time, Bessie single handily brought African American Southern Blues into popular music. Recordings can still be found of “I Ain’t Got Nobody”, “Baby Doll”, “Gimme a Pigfoot” and “Tain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do. At the height of her popularity, Bessie was not only the number one selling female African American artist, her over 160 recordings sold more copies than all other performers except Caruso and Al Jolson.
There are many famous singers who followed in her footsteps who have acknowledged their debt to this trail blazer of southern blues music. Such notables as Ethel Waters, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin have all paid tribute to her influence on their careers. In 1980, Bessie Smith was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame and, in 1989, into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Single tickets are on sale now; prices range from $49 to $69. Tickets are $15 for currently enrolled students under age 25 with valid ID. For single tickets, please call 216-241-6000 or go online atwww.clevelandplayhouse.com. Groups of 10+ save up to 40% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027 or email email@example.com.
About Cleveland Play House
Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, Cleveland Play House has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate and entertain diverse audiences in Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. It has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,300 CPH productions. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Bloom and Managing Director Kevin Moore, Cleveland Play House looks toward its centennial while performing in three state-of-the art venues at PlayhouseSquare in downtown Cleveland.
Cleveland Play House is funded through the generosity of Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, and The Ohio Arts Council helps to fund Cleveland Play House with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
Pre-show Conversations – 45 minutes before every production. Led by CPH actors and staff, these interactive half-hour conversations pull back the curtain early to let you connect with the people, themes, ideas and creative choices that go into each production, in an engaging and relaxed setting.
Post-show Discussions –Tuesday, 2/26; Sunday, 3/3, 2013
A chance to interact with the cast, creative team, local experts and fellow playgoers in a lively and wide-ranging discussion of each production and the questions it raises.