Low Down Dirty Blues

June 16, 2010 10:24:25 AM PDT
Featuring Tony nominee Felicia Fields, Low Down Dirty Blues runs through July 3 at Northlight Theatre in Skokie.(RELEASE)

Chicago, IL--Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans announce the World Premiere of Low Down Dirty Blues, by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman, the creators of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and Fire on the Mountain. The production will feature Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Fields (The Color Purple) in her first role in Chicago since The Color Purple and two-time Jeff Award-winner Mississippi Charles Bevel. The production will be directed by Randal Myler with musical direction by Dan Wheetman. Low Down Dirty Blues runs May 27 - July 3, 2010 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. The press opening is Saturday, June 5, 2010.

When the crowd goes home for the night, the real show begins! At least that's the case at one local Blues bar, where musicians gather after hours to swap stories and songs filled with passion, soul and an authentic love of the Blues that can't be described, but demands to be played. Inspired by Blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlin' Wolf and Pearl Bailey, this low down dirty jam session pays tribute to a musical form that's steeped in Chicago history -- and alive and thriving today!

"Northlight is delighted to welcome back director Randy Myler, Dan Wheetman and two-time Jeff Award winner Mississippi Charles Bevel with a world premiere musical, in celebration of our 35th Anniversary," says BJ Jones. "Low Down Dirty Blues continues Northlight's dedication to exploring American Blues music and its roots, in a joyous and roof-raising evening sure to lift our audiences' spirits."

"The Blues has always had an 'earthy' quality. It has been the voice of a people caught in economic and social situations that have kept one entire social sector of the country under the thumb of another sector through the 'Jim Crow' laws and through narrow fields available for economic gain. Out of this environment, their voices found expression in the celebration of Life in all its facets," say Myler and Wheetman. "From the first blues songs (known as 'jump ups,' 'work songs' and 'hollers'), the Blues has dealt with subjects other musical styles have either avoided because of social stigma, or overlooked due to lack of understanding or experience. In the early 1920s women like Sippy Wallace, Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie and Alberta Hunter sang songs with a 'ragtime' feel and a lyric as explicit and real as the world they lived in. Men like Charlie Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Bo Carter and the Chatmans sang heartbreaking songs of a life bound in invisible chains of prejudice and poverty while also singing joyous songs of sexual freedom and their freedom of movement. All of these were testaments to freedom, and all exemplified the Low Down Dirty Blues."

The production features Mississippi Charles Bevel, Felicia P. Fields, Gregory Porter, and Sandra Reaves-Phillips.

The designers are Jack Magaw (Set Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), Dan Darnutzer (Lighting Design) and Victoria DeIorio (Sound Design). The production Stage Manager is Rita Vreeland.

The musicians are Frank Menzies (Piano), James A. Perkins Jr. (Guitar) and Michael Manson (Bass). Jon Spiegel is the Musician Contractor.

Randal Myler (Co-Creator, Director) was a Tony Award nominee for Best Book of a Musical for It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. He also wrote and directed the Off-Broadway hits Love, Janis and Hank Williams: Lost Highway, for which he received an Outer Critic's Circle Award nomination. He has directed at theatres throughout the country, including Northlight, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Denver Center, Arena Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Playhouse, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse, Bay Street Theater, Arizona Theater Company, Alley Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Ryman Auditorium, Brooklyn Academy of Music, B.B.King's, Bay Street Theater and many others. His writing and directing projects include co-creating and directing Fire on the Mountain and Mama Hated Diesels, co-adapting and directing Touch the Names: Letters to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and directing Union City (with Rosie Perez) and the musical version of The Immigrant.

Dan Wheetman (Co-Creator, Music Direction) shared a Tony Award nomination for Best Book for It Ain't Nothin But the Blues. His play Appalachian Strings, written with Randal Myler, has been performed at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Denver Center Theatre Company, Meadow Brook Theatre, and Virginia Stage Company. He composed and served as musical director for the stage version of John Irving's The Cider House Rules, and received a DramaLogue Award for Musical Direction for Hank Williams: Lost Highway and an L.A. Critics Award for Blues. His play Mama Hated Diesels is currently running in Denver. He toured and recorded with John Denver for seven years, has written a Christmas song for Kermit the Frog, played a fiddle with Itzhak Perlman, worked as an opening act for Steve Martin, and currently plays in the band Marley's Ghost. His solo album House of a Different Color was released on Sage Arts records.

Mississippi Charles Bevel appeared at Northlight in Fire on the Mountain and It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, and won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor in a Revue for each of those productions. He also appeared in the original Broadway cast of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues (Tony Award nominee), as well as at Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, Missouri Rep, and Seattle Rep. Other credits include Let Me Live (Goodman); The Piano Lesson (Karamu Performing Arts Theatre); I Am A Man, Thunder Knocking at the Door (Meadow Brook Theatre); Famous Orpheus (Geva); Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Plowshares Theatre Company); Stories About the Old Days (St. Louis Black Repertory); and Fire on the Mountain (San Diego Repertory, Denver Center Theatre Company, Seattle Rep).

Felicia P. Fields was last see at Northlight in It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues. She earned a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of Sofia in The Color Purple on Broadway. Her performance also earned her a 2006 Theatre World award, A Clarence Derwent Award, two Broadway.com Awards, an NAACP nomination, a Denver Post Ovation Award and she was a 2006 Drama League honoree. Felicia has received many Joseph Jefferson award nominations and has worked throughout the Chicagoland area including Jammin' with Pops (Ella Fitzgerald), Hot Mikado (Katisha), Show Boat (Queenie), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Ma Rainey), Ain't Misbehavin' (Nell/Amelia), Dreamgirls (Effie Melody White), The Amen Corner and The Rose Tattoo. Felicia's stellar performance in Chicago's Drury Lane production of Sophisticated Ladies earned her the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress in a Musical. TV/Film: Early Edition, Save the Last Dance, Knights of Prosperity.

Gregory Porter last appeared at Northlight in It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, for which he was also a member of the original Broadway cast. Credits include: Nat King Cole and Me: A Musical Healing at the Denver Center Theater Company, a musical that he co-created with Low Down Dirty Blues director and co-creator Randal Myler. Gregory performed on the national tour of the Broadway musical Civil War and appeared in Avenue X at San Diego Repertory Theatre. In addition to acting, he is an accomplished jazz vocalist and professional chef. His television appearances include Late Night with David Letterman, The Rosie O'Donnell Show and The Today Show. He has recorded with renowned jazz flutist Hubert Laws, and has a new CD out this May on Motema Music. Gregory performs frequently with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Sandra Reaves-Phillips was born in South Carolina, where she labored in the migrant fields with her grandmother and sang in the church choir before entering the world of show business. Theatre credits include It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, One Mo' Time, Further Mo' and Raisin (National Tours); Little Bit (off-Broadway); Sweet Mama Stringbean (National Black Theatre Festival); and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Citadel Theatre, Canada and Pittsburgh Public), among others. She has had countless club, festival and special appearances around the world, including New York's famed Cotton Club, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and Cavalcade of Stars at Carnegie Hall. She continues to tour in shows she created: Late Great Ladies of Blues & Jazz, Bold & Brassy Blues, Me, Myself & You and Glory Hallelujah Gospel! Television: Law and Order, Comedy Central, Homicide, Another World, and NBC Movie of the Week Following Her Heart. Film: 'Round Midnight and Lean on Me, for which she sang the title song.

Tickets for Low Down Dirty Blues, $39-54, are available by phone, 847.673.6300, or online at northlight.org. Young Adult tickets (25 and Under) are $10 (one per person with valid ID).

The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.

Curtain times are: Tuesdays at 7:30pm (except June 1, 8, 22); Wednesdays at 1:00pm; and 7:30pm; Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 2:30pm; and 8:00pm; Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:00pm (except June 6--when it will begin at 6p.m, and June 20).

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Now in its 35th season, the organization has mounted over 165 productions, including more than 33 world premieres. Northlight has earned 145 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 28 Awards. As one of the area's premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.


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