BLUES IN THE NIGHT
A musical revue in 2 acts. Conceived and originally directed by Sheldon Epps
Rialto Theatre, Broadway 2 June, 1982 (53 perfs)
Donmar Warehouse, London 12 June, 1987
A tremendous West End success, this dynamic compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues frames and comments on three women's relationships with one snake of a guy. With no spoken text, the interweaving stories are defined through music alone - and what music! Ranging from Bessie Smith through Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen, Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Cox, Ida Cox and more, the evening's music is raunchily forthright, infectiously good-humoured and always classically blues. Songs include "When A Woman Loves A Man", "Wasted Life Blues" and the title song.
As the music begins, the lights come up on three women sitting in what look like individual hotel rooms in a worn down dive. The women are in period dress, reflecting Chicago in the late 1930's. The Lady from the Road, a warm and beautiful woman in her late 50's or early 60's, has surrounded herself with memories of her brighter past. The Woman of the World, a stylish creature of indeterminate age surrounded by an equal amount of perfume and liquor bottles, spends the evening preparing for her gentleman caller. The Girl With a Date sits in a sparsely decorated room determined to make a fresh start in the big city. Behind them, The Man in the Saloon, at once charming and dangerous, watches with a wary eye and comments with a silver tongue.
The Women sing from their individual areas as they set the stage for the evening. As much as they long for a man to hold them, they're alone. The Man, in the band area, sings about his hard luck as the women dream of a better time to come. The Man hangs out with the band as the Lady addresses the audience. She introduces the characters on stage, then changes into a flashy costume from her days as a singer. She sings "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues" as she shimmies and dances.
The Woman sits in her armchair and reminisces of days gone by. As she sings, her room is temporarily transformed into a dance hall. She sprays herself with perfume as the lights crossfade to the Girl. The Girl turns on her radio and recognizes the tune.
Addressing the audience, The Lady remembers what good old loving used to feel like. The Woman and the Girl add their voices from their rooms, taking turns and backing her up.
The Lady goes behind her screen to change and the Girl exits, leaving the Woman alone on stage. She puts on a dressing gown with great style. The man appears in another pary of the stage, singing, then exits. At the end of the song, the Woman exits, leaving the stage bare.
The Man enters alone and dreams of a better life - the life he wishes he had. The Lady enters in a brightly colored riding outfit, complete with parasol. The Man sings "Wild Women Don't Have No Blues," singing to each of the women, instructing them. The Women respond with "Lover Man," then join him in "Wild Women Don't Have No Blues."
The Girl, feeling lonely, sings "Willow Weep for Me." The Man shakes his head and exits as The Lady re-enters in a large feathered hat and too much costume jewelry singing a raunchy song about the kind of man she needs.
The Girl and The Woman enter from opposite sides and wing "When Your Lover Has Gone." The Lady joins them and they sing "Take It Right Back," proclaiming that they are done with low-down dirty dog men.
The lights come up on each person as they begin to sing. They are alone in their individual areas. The singers have become more and more undone, drinking steadily and slowly over the course of the evening. The shine is beginning to wear off as they reveal their true situations. The Lady addresses the audience explaining that it's "Blues Time" - around three in the morning. The Girl's date never showed up, The Woman never had anyone to begin with, and the Lady is alone with her memories. The Lady says she needs to talk to the women in the audience and tells the men to either leave or cover their ears. The other Women back her up.
The Man and the Women trade off as they talk about their worn down hearts. The Man wishes for a woman to love him the way he is. The Women lament over how untrustworthy men can be. As the Man starts to leave, The Woman comes downstage and focuses on him singing that she wants a "Rough and Ready Man" - one who isn't afraid to work. The Man shivers and exits as The Woman gets more and more carried away.
The Girl, sitting at the table in her room is clearly a little drunk. She feels she's growing old and has to live while she can, teasing the men in the audience with the "Reckless Blues." The rest of the stage goes dark and The Lady is taking one last look at her scrapbook and sings the "Wasted Life Blues." She lies down on her bed as if she intends never to get up again. The Man enters and sings "Baby Doll," looking at The Lady. He turns to the audience and turns up the heat, then struts off cockily.
The Woman sits alone at her vanity, staring into the mirror. The Lady and The Girl add their voices to hers.
In the Finale, all four singers join in "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues / Blue Blues." We are left with an emotional impression of what life was like in the late 1930's in Chicago - good music, hard lives, and dreams that stretch on long into the night.
- Am I Blue?
- Blues Blues
- Blues In the Night
- Dirty No-Gooder Blues
- Four Walls (and One Dirty Window) Blues
- I Gotta Right To Sing the Blues
- It Makes My Love Come Down
- I've Got A Date With A Dream
- Kitchen Man
- Lover Man
- New Orleans Hop-Scop Blues
- Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out
- Reckless Blues
- Rough and Ready Man
- Take It Right Back
- Take Me For a Buggy Ride
- These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You
- Wasted Life Blues
- When a Woman Loves a Man
- Wild Women Don't Have The Blues
- Willow Weep For Me
Cast: 1 man, 3 women
- The Girl with a Date - Energetic, bright, range of emotions but a hidden bitterness
- The Lady from the Road - Warm, beautiful, African-American--she is the blues (Late 50's to early 60's)
- The Man in the Saloon - Charming, slightly dangerous, an underappreciated singer
- The Woman of the World - Stylish, seductive, a survivor fallen on harder times
drums kit, wood block
tenor saxophone clarinet, tenor saxophone, trumpet
Original London Cast Recording - First Night SCENE CD9