It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues
We saw this show at the Austin Theater Company in south Austin. All singing and dancing. Samples of black music from early to modern times, African chants through gospel to Rock & Roll. Terrific show, all songs, fantastic voices.
The play has been around for years. Nominated for a Tony when it was in New York. Unfortunately there is no recording of the local production due to copyright problems. There is a CD of the Broadway cast with part the music.
The show has been in many cities, but it's not a touring company. It's usually done with rep players. Here there were five singers. Two black men, one big round baritone, one tall skinny bass. A black woman, Nell Carter shaped; and two white women, one large one small. The most surprising is the tiny white woman. Five foot nothing, thin, compact, thirty-five give or take, who, when she opens her mouth, out comes this amazing sound, this huge rhinoceros of a voice that you'd expect from a refrigerator-shaped opera diva. Not that high and pure but powerful and soulful. She does several numbers as the slinky femme fatale, "Fever" for instance. Holy bananas, it ain't over till the thin lady sings.
Cabaret May-July 2004
One of the local professional theaters mounted a production of Cabaret this spring, and it was wonderful. (If you have never seen the movie Cabaret, then run, do not walk, to your local Blockbuster or equivalent and rent it now. This is a *great* movie. It won a whole shelf full of Oscars in its year: best actor, best actress, best director, and five others. It is funny, moving, and horrifying all at the same time.)
In Austin, few things are done quite straight, and this play was no exception. For instance, in typical Austin gender-bending fashion, the role of the Emcee was played by a woman. Not just any woman, but the same one I wrote about in "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues," the best singer in town, at least that I have seen. Her costumes were slightly different from the usual. Black leather bra, thong with a dollar sign on the front for the song "Money Makes the World Go Around," things like that. Her powerful voice and ironic humor made the play. For a local theater group outside New York, a terrific production. We saw it twice.
The theater, in case any of you ever get here, is the Zachary Scott Theater ("The Zach"). It has two venues, the big one a thrust stage that seats maybe two hundred, the other around about half that size. Very nice place.
We saw it twice. The first time we were way up top, last row, but center so we could see well. It's a small theater so there really aren't any bad seats. The second time our seats are in the first row. We went with another couple, friends, and they were seated at a table on the stage. People at the stage tables tend to get involved in the production. For instance, the dancing girls kept sitting on his lap and shaking their boobs in his face. Later the emcee danced with her and got a mite fresh, how kewl.
The amazing singer from "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues" and the Emcee from "Cabaret" were both a local luminary named Suzanne Abbott. We keep running into her on-stage and off. We bumped into her at another play, "Omnium Gatherum," and spoke briefly. She was in the audience that time, not the cast. Then Bev and a friend coming in from New York ran into her at the airport the day before we all saw her in "Cabaret" the first time. And last, we went to see her at the Zach Scott Theater again in a one-woman show of mostly her own songs. And we ended up sitting between Suzanne's mother and brother on the one side and sister on the other. We talked to her mother for a while during the intermission and then traded seats so they could all sit together.