CUSTOM MADE THEATRE CO PRODUCES THE THEATRICAL PREMIERE OF ROSE’S COMPELLING NEW WORK, A HYBRID OF THEATER AND CONCERT
The Custom Made Stage at the Sheldon Theatre is a Blues cafe this summer. Celebrating powerful women in the world of Jazz. BLUES IS A WOMAN celebrates women in the blues from Ma Rainey to Bonnie Raitt and beyond and is now on stage at the CMTC through August 27th. Presented as a cafe show (not a jukebox) the two hour performance includes some of the best songs from many iconic women jazz performers.
The company under the direction of both writer Pamela Rose and director Jayne Wenger had sold-out previews in Northern California (Kuumbwa, Freight & Salvage, SFJAZZ, Cinnabar Theater). The show now is in terrific form for its first theatrical staging. Audiences around the Bay Area have leapt to their feet with mid-show standing ovations, this new theater/concert piece now has a month long theatrical run at Custom Made Theatre in San Francisco.
With a full throttle company of musician/actors; Pamela Rose, Tammy Hall, Ruth Davies, Pat Wilder, Daria Johnson and Kristen Strom, the women onstage perform musical treasures highlighted by storytelling and historical film. BLUES IS A WOMAN is the latest in Rose’s Wild Women of Song project, that features remarkable women in American music. Rose’s first piece “Wild Women of Song: Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era” toured for six years to sold out crowds with positive reviews.
Rose has spent years developing this project and is pleased with its outcome “The biggest challenge in writing BLUES IS A WOMEN was deciding which blues women to feature in the show - and whom to leave out. I knew the story I wanted to tell, I wanted to introduce audiences to the extraordinary women who help to create and popularize the blues, but I also wanted to amplify and celebrate that particularly powerful voice which women in the blues gave to us” says Rose.
The night club setting for the live performers and narrative created by Rose fit perfectly with the in depth historic video clips and projections captured by Scott Sorkin of archival stills highlighted by performances from many of the great women who created the blues. The women all have real life-experience working in the industry. These pros have performed alongside musical greats such as: Bonnie Raitt, John Legend, Roberta Flack, Etta James and Janis Joplin. The cast is on point with strong vocal turns, Kristen Strom on sax is magnetic. Shauna Hall on guitar brings a class act to small CMTC black box. Ruth Davies on bass is impressive and “Voodoo Women” is a boom of a high light. The sold out audiences get a first rate history lesson on the American Blues experience in the form of a tight club session.
Music director Tammy Hall on piano, keeps the women on cue and shares the different definitions of the musical genre “The blues is when my car won’t start,” as bass player Ruth Davis says. “The blues is my slave-driving boss.” Sax player Kris Strom says “The blues is about that man of mine,” as drummer Daria Johnson says “or that woman of mine.” Strom says “Men, particularly those who play guitar, have dominated the blues world at least since the 1930s. But during the previous decade, when blues songs performed by African Americans were first captured on wax, women ruled on records and on the black vaudeville circuit run by the white-owned Theater Operators Booking Association TOBA”. Pam Rose defines the term as “Tough on Black Asses” by performers in those early years.
We learn about the women who performed “classic blues” during the ‘20s. The royalty in the black community such as Bessie Smith was “Empress of the Blues”, Mamie Smith and Clara Smith the “Queen of the Blues” The San Francisco-based vocalist Pamela Rose, book and script for this performance, makes it clear that she is a the craft expert of Jazz and Blues. Director Jayne Wenger sets the pace and the two hour club session moves well as the women easily share the text of the script as they tell the story of Women in the history of Jazz and Blues.
The company all take turns singing solos, or leads. Rose has the mic most of the time blasting out classics like: Ma Rainey’s “Don’t Fish in My Sea,” Alberta Hunter’s “Remember My Name” and Ruth Brown’s “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean.” She also sang some Sophie Tucker’s blues style singing “Some of These Days” and her excellent Janis Joplin’s version of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain.” Musical director, Hall, brought the house down with her explosive piano solos throughout the evening and is a powerhouse singer, “Black Women” by Vera Hall was a show stopper.
The second act ends the more than 24 song list with videos of Nina Simone singing her iconic “Backlash Blues” as the six women bring a certain class to Aretha Franklin’s version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” and “freedom” that is sure to bring James Brown high stepping to the set. Tucker, Lee, Joplin and Raitt are all mentioned and songs combine their style that is not always the African American experience. BLUES IS A WOMAN is a must see for your summer theatre picks, its is intelligent foot and hand clapping pleasure and I did not want the evening to end.
PAMELA ROSE AND
THE CUSTOM MADE THEATRE CO
BLUES IS A WOMAN
The latest in Rose's Wild Women of Song project, which
The remarkable women in American music
Written by Pamela Rose
Directed by Jayne Wenger
Music Director Tammy Hall
Featuring: Pamela Rose, Tammy Hall, Ruth
Davies, Shaunna Hall, Daria Johnson and Kristen Strom,
Custom Made Theatre,
533 Sutter Street (Union Square), SF
Two Hours One intermission
Telephone: (415) 798-2682
Thursday through Sundays, Through Aug - 27.
Tickets range from $38 to $50