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A CurtainUp London London Review
Blues in the Night

"Four walls and a dirty window." — lyric
Blues in the Night
Sharon D Clarke as The Woman (Photo: Marilyn Kingwill)
Originally directed by Sheldon Epps, the musical revueBlues in the Night comes to the Hackney Empire with three major West End stars in the leading roles. Sharon D Clarke, who blew us away as the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You and in Ghost has a magnificent range which she makes seem effortless, is The Lady. Clive Rowe, long a Hackney Empire favourite and star of both musicals and plays, is The Man. Paulette Ivory who was in the original London production of The Lion King is The Woman. They are joined by rising star Gemma Sutton as The Girl.

Set in a far from luxurious hotel in Chicago in 1939, the story is composed around songs recorded by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Cox and Ida Cox and others. The storyline is loose but the music is fabulous as they sing the songs that get them through the night. Sharon D Clarke's lady with her ostrich feather fans looks back on her career and spills the beans on the other people in the hotel. Two male dancers — one a waiter, one in a suit— provide the choreography.

"It Makes My Love come Down", Bessie Smith's sexy song, is interpreted by Sharon D Clarke with characterful verve. Clive Rowe counters with "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues". Sharon D Clarke sings "Kitchen Man" with its popular but lewd lyrics. In character in the second act she says of The Man, "I can't stand him, but he sure can sing." I loved Paulette Ivory's rendition of "Rough and Ready Man". All four join in with Jimmy Cox's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" which starts a magnificent build towards the end of the show.

It is a real treat to hear these British great performers deliver the full emotion of the Blues to an audience on its feet in the Hackney Empire, one of Frank Matcham's great London theatres.

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Blues in the Night
Conceived and originally directed by Sheldon Epps
Directed by Susie McKenna

Starring: Clive Rowe, Sharon D Clarke, Paulette Ivory, Gemma Sutton
Dancers: KM Drew Boateng, Ryan Reid
Choreography by Frank Thompson
Design: Lotte Collett
Lighting: David W Kidd
Musical Direction: Mark Dickman
Sound Design: Avgoustos Psillas for Autograph
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes including one interval
Box Office: 020 8985 2424
Booking to 41th May2014
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th April 2014 performance at The ney Empire, Mare Street, London E8 (Rail/Overground: Hackney Central)

Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Blue Blues
  • by Bessie Smith, The Company
  • Four Walls (And One Dirty Window) Blues
  • by Willard Robinson, The Man and The Lady
  • I've Got A Date with A Dream
  • by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, The Woman and The Girl
  • New Orleans Hop Scop Blues
  • by George W. Thomas, The Lady
  • Stompin' At The Savoy
  • by Benny Goddman, Andy Razaf, Edgar Sampson and Chick Webb, The Woman
  • Taking A Chance On Love
  • by Vernon Duke, John LeTouche and Ted Fetter, The Girl
  • It Makes My Love Come Down
  • by Bessie Smith, The Woman
  • Lush Life
  • by Billy Strayhorn, The Woman
  • I'm Just A Lucky So-and-So
  • by Duke Ellington and Mack David, The Man
  • Wild Women Don't Have The Blues
  • by Ida Cox, The Man
  • Lover Man
  • The Lady, by Jimmy Davis, Jimmy Sherman and Roger
  • Ram
  • Ramirez
  • Willow Weep For Me
  • by Ann Ronell, The Girl
  • Kitchen Man
  • by Andy Razaf and Wesley Wilson, The Lady
  • Take It Right Beck
  • by H. Grey, The Women
Act Two
  • Jam Session (Wild Women Don't Have The Blues
  • ) by Ida Cox, The Band
  • Blues In The Night
  • by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, The Company
  • Dirty No-Gooder's Blues
  • by Bessie Smith, The Lady
  • When A Woman Loves A Man/Am I Blue?
  • by Johnny Mercer, Gordon Jenkins and Bernard Hanighen / by Grand Clarke and Harry Akst, The Company
  • Rough and Ready Man
  • by Alberta Hunter, The Woman
  • Reckless Blues
  • by Bessie Smith, The Girl
  • Wasted Life Blues
  • by Bessie Smith, The Lady
  • Baby Doll
  • by Bessie Smith, The Men
  • Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
  • by Jimmy Cox, The Company
  • I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues
  • by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, The Women
  • Four Walls
  • (Reprise) by Willard Robinson, The Company
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