Sunday, April 7, 2013

The M Ensemble: It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues (reviews)

The M Ensemble opened its production of It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse on April 4, 2013.
This sizzling revue of the blues and blues infused songs that changed the way the world hears the human heartbeat took New York by storm. Ravishing songs trace the evolution of the blues from Africa to Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago.
Jerry Maple directed a cast that featured Christina Alexander, Paulette Dozier, Valerie Woods, Reginald Everson, Don Sewards, and John Williams. Choreography by Keith Wilson.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald: M Ensemble’s new production of Blues at the Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse, the history of the form comes in a distant second -- way distant -- to simply hearing that music delivered by six strong singers and a driving, soulful five-piece band.
Each of the six actor-singers gets a showcase number (or two or three), and all are strong soloists whose voices also blend into a mighty ensemble.
Christina Alexander brings a sweet and sultry flavor to My Man Rocks Me and Now I’m Gonna Be Bad. Paulette Dozier, who has done an entire show playing Billie Holiday... delivers a haunting rendition of the singer’s Strange Fruit and wrings every ounce of double entendre out of Someone Else Is Steppin’ In.
Don Seward raises temperatures in a duet with Alexander on Fever.... John Williams proclaims himself a Blues Man, then later turns fiery on The Thrill Is Gone. Reginald Everson, decked out in a zoot suit, promises his version of sexy good times as he sings I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.
...dancer-choreographer Keith Wilson and dancer Susan Josue thread modern dance movement throughout the show. The two are talented but at times seem stylistically at odds with a piece built around the blues.

In terms of structure and design, M Ensemble’s production has its flaws. Four songs from the second act are shoved into the first ( Strange Fruit seems particularly oddly placed). Set designer Gregory Contreras and scenic designer Dung Truong make the club set work in the black-box space, but the simplistic church backdrop looks cheap. Costumer Samuel Linn Davis coordinates looks for the different environments, but some of the clothes are stylistically dated (not in a way that serves the show) or strange (Alexander’s yellow “shawl,” which is actually a piece of unraveling fabric, comes to mind).

Still, if you take the show’s title as advice and focus on the songs, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues supplies the come-ons, the heartbreak and the cathartic uplift of a special kind of music.
The M Ensemble presents It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse through April 21, 2013

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