Encore Michigan

Meadow Brook puts the happy in Blues In The Night

Review February 19, 2023 David Kiley

ROCHESTER HILLS, MI—If you like the blues, you’ll like Blues In The Night, now presented at The Meadow Brook Theatre through March 12.

The jukebox musical, originally conceived by Sheldon Epps, is a roundup of some of the best blues tunes ever recorded, sung, acted and delivered by a top-notch cast of singer/actors and on-stage band.

The music is from artists including Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. There is a thin, but perfectly adequate, “story” linking the songs–three women who are positioned across the stage for much of the show, each in their own small room in what is meant to be a rundown hotel; though one again the set design at The Meadow Brook is beautiful. They alternate singing about their sorrowful experiences with the lying, cheating oily man who wrongs them.

Some of the classic blues tunes we hear: The title song–“Blues In The Night”; “When a Woman Loves A Man”; “I’ve Got A Date With A Dream”; “Four Walls”; “Kitchen man” and many more.

The cast and band assembled for Blues is very much up to the material. The three ladies all work very much together as an ensemble, but it would be difficult to not single out Angela Birchett whose marvelous range and stage presence is a tent-pole of the whole show. She struts at times, showing a randy sexiness, but also is exceptional at showing the world weariness necessary to carry off some of the more somber blues tunes. Jameelah Leaundra comes across as the youngest of the ladies, and appropriately has a lighter touch on her songs. Jackey Good, too, handles her vocals and choreography like a pro. The three ladies complement one another nicely.

Parnell Damone Marcano is the no-good man, but plays the role with enough humor and strut that he’s hard not to like. Mr. Marcano also doubles as the show’s dance captain.

Blues is music directed by Brian E. Buckner (2022 Wilde Award winner). Buckner brings some bounce and sizzle to the music, and is a fun presence on stage behind the keyboard. As a first-rate music director who also has acting chops, putting the band he leads on stage is a very good choice by director Tyrick Wiltez Jones.

The cast brings to life some of the best known and best loved Blues songs of the last century. And judging from the occasional clapping to the beat from the audience and standing ovatios, its safe to say this is a happy celebration of the Blues.