Blues is a Woman rocks the intimate Custom Theatre venue.

L to R : Kristin Strom, Pamela Rose, Shaunna Hall, Daria Johnson in Blues is a Woman at Custom Made Theater. Photo Credit: Jane Higgins

BLUES IS A WOMAN: A hybrid of theater and concert at Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter St. (at Powell) in San Francisco, CA. (415) 798-2682 or https://www.custommade.org/blues-is-a-woman.

Thursday through Sundays, Aug 3 – 27, 2017. 

Blues is a Woman rocks the intimate Custom Theatre venue. Rating: ★★★★☆

Although this most recent production of Blues is a Woman is booked as a world premiere it has had a recent showing in March-April at Berkeley’s Freight and Salvage venue with a slightly different cast and according to the press kit it is a semi-restaging that has been two years in the making. Shaunna Hall’s guitar solo in act two brought thunderous applause is the replacement for the indisposed original guitarist.

It is clearly apparent that the exceptional cast of Tammy Hall (pianist, vocals and music director), Pamela Rose (Author and vocals), Daria “Shani” Johnson(drummer, vocals) Kristen Strom (Saxophone, vocals ) and Ruth Davis (electric Bass) fit together as ensemble yet give memorable individual performances.

One of the cast opines “Everybody says the blues is a man and his guitar.” Pamela Rose has put together with creative director Jayne Wenger and a top notch production staff a multimedia show that puts that adage in the hopper. They do it forcefully insisting, “I am a woman, and I am not going to take it lying down”

The show is a semi-historical performance piece displaying meticulous care and love with a  mixture of music/song, storytelling, projections with old video clips and recordings remastered from original wax/vinyl records. Each cast member has a turn to give her definition of ‘The Blues’ that includes: “The blues is my slave-driving boss,” “The blues is when my car won’t start,” “The blues is about that man of mine,” to be countered “with that woman of mine.”

This reviewer is only partially familiar with the history of the Blues and the Blues singers but by the end of the show the names rang a familiar bell and some of the songs brought back memories but mostly new conception of the Blues. There are 25 or more songs starting with Pamela Rose’s original creations beginning with the title song “Blues is a Women”  followed by ”Black Woman” sung with a touch of pride by Tammy Hall.

L to R: Tammy Hall, Pamela Rose
Photo Credit: Jane Higgins

Pamela Rose is the emcee and all except Ruth Davis gets their individual turn on center stage. Daria Johnson gets her chance to leave the drums (They could be turned down a bit) in a duet with Pamela Rose in “Up Country Blues” and brought the house down with “Nobody Knows the Way I feel this Morning.”

Front: Daria Johnson L to R Back Row: Shaunna Hall, Kristin Strom, Pamela Rose Photo Credit: Jane Higgins

Shaunna Hall’s riffs on the alto and bass Sax are to die for.

The actors must share the accolades with the marvelous, meticulous music of  the past with names of ( in order of appearance) Vera Hall, Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, Ida Cox, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Bertha “Chippie” Hall, Georgie White, Peggy Lee, Dinah Washington, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Peggy Lee, Sophie Tucker, Bonnie Rait and others). The show is subtitled “From Ma Rainey to Bonnie Raitt.”

The historical origins are well documented starting with the influence of slave music and ends including church gospels. Prepare to be educated as well as entertained. If you are a Blues fan this is a must see show for others like myself and guest it is given a solid should see rating.

CAST: (Alphabetically) Ruth Davies,  Shaunna Hall , Tammy Hall, Dana Johnson,  Pamela Rose  and Kristen Strom.

PRODUCTION STAFF: Creative Director, Jayne Wenger; Lighting & Scenic Designer, Maxx Kurzunski; Costume Designer, Laura Hazlett Scott; Projections Designer, Scott Sorkin; Sound Designer, Ryan Lee Short; Stage Managers, Tesse King, Thomas Ariniello; Image Development, Graham Howes; Sound Advisor, Leslie Ann Jones, Skywalker Sound; Key Art Design, Jennifer Melnick, Olio Arts.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.