Blues in the Night – Steamy; Maureen McVerry – SuperGood; Greater Tuna; Shawn Ryan Tonight

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on August 24, 2007

CLASSIC BLUES IS BACK IN ‘BLUES IN THE NIGHT’

Blues started in Churches and Schools, but soon branched out to theaters, clubs, and dance halls and of course the ‘rage’ of the day vaudeville shows. New Orleans played a huge part in the popularity of ‘Blues’. And to this day ‘Blues’ is still sung around the world. There is something about it that is so sensual and so real that it brings out thoughts about long lost loves, heartbreaks and the hope that somewhere out there is someone for you.

The Director of the show, Sheldon Epps says this about the Blues: “The Blues…that special sound that comes straight from the soul. A feeling, a cry of pain, a shout of joy. A song that is born in the heart. We’ve all gotta right to sing the blues.”

There are some great memories on the Post Street stage as the cast enchants the audience with some of these great songs. “Four Walls (And One Dirty Window) Blues’, ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’, ‘Taking a Chance on Love’, “Lush Life’, ‘Lover Man’, ‘Kitchen Man’, ‘When Your Lover Has Gone’. This is just sample of some of the great Blues numbers that you will hear in this engrossing evening. Then there is the Band with ‘Jam Session (Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues)’ – a session that almost peels the paint off the walls in the Theater.

The actors/singers in the show are Maurice Hines (The man in the Saloon), Freda Payne, who became an international sensation with her Disco song “Band of Gold” is still thrilling to hear. Carol Woods – is a woman on the road in the show. And her costumes and strong voice will tickle you from head to toe. Why, you could sit on the sidewalk in front of the Theater and hear her sing out there. Paulette Ivory is a gal always looking for the perfect date that never pans out.

“Blues in the Night” is a wonderful surprise of the summer. This is certainly an uplifting and heartfelt story where the rules of the game have changed little when it comes to affairs of the heart. No one will want to miss the charming Maurice Hines. Come and meet those dancing feet, is what I would recommend. Freda Payne is gorgeous and still has that beautiful, intricate styling that is always provocative.

Exciting musical direction is by Rahn Coleman and the tremendously effective Scenery & Lighting is by Douglas D. Smith. The smooth and sensitive directing is by Sheldon Epps. AT THE POST STREET THEATRE.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! – (highest rating) – trademarked-


Maureen McVerry. Photo by David Allen.

VERRY McVERRY

Baby, you’re Betty Hutton. No, really. That’s you.

Maureen McVerry created her one-woman show in 1993. In the past she has appeared at the Herbst Theatre, The Venetian Room and the Alcazar in the Bay Area. Nationally, she has played 88’s in Manhattan, and the Gardenia Room in Los Angeles. McVerry has also played Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. She has been in ‘Into the Woods’, ‘Side by Side’, ‘Born Yesterday, ‘Me and My Girl’ the long running “Noises Off’ and you have also seen her on TV.

So with all that experience behind her, you would expect her to be highly entertaining. And yes, she is – but there is a bonus. She is also a little abstract and a little eccentric. In this show McVerry is the new Betty Hutton. She could call her show the ‘Blonde Bombshell’ because she has that quirky, kind of nuttiness that Hutton had. My advice – make the show a Hutton Tribute, similar to what Terese Genneco did with Francis Faye. “Potential” is her opening song – and you should go with it.

McVerry sings a lot of ‘special material’ songs in the show, which are all fun and great, like “Love Will Kick Your Ass”. It’s SuperGood fun. Loved the “Baseball song” and the Hutton song “Murder He Says”. Total tongue-in-cheek fun is “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm.” It’s just delicious.

For a fresh view of songs you won’t need to go any further than McVerry. Her Dorothy Fields Medley of songs was extremely crowd-pleasing. Shout it out! The songstress/actress will soon be seen on the Aurora Theatre stage in the once banned Mae West play “Sex”. As McVerry says: “I can’t wait. Now I get to have Sex on the sage five days a week. What’s next? ‘Sex’ the musical. I would love it. NOW PLAYING AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATER, which McVerry calls the Nude Conservatory Theater. Go ahead…you’re free to laugh!

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! -trademarked-

GREATER TUNA IS BACK IN TOWN

Tuna, the show about a small town in Texas is based on a political cartoon from more than twenty years ago in Austin, Texas. Creators of the show, Joe Sears, Jaston Williams and Ed Howard took the sketch and turned into a theatrical hit. Thousands have seen it worldwide and it is still being performed in many places.

Some might call the citizens of ‘Tuna’ eclectic – they are that, and more. The show gives us a broad exaggerated look at small town living, from the not so bright, to the over-eaters and the uptight do-gooders plus a look at a small town radio station, where someone who stole hub caps off a car the night before is headline news.

Two performers, Markham Miller & Richard Ryan is the entire cast. They play all of the characters with clever entrances and exits dressed completely as different characters. And they are fast changers. It is totally amazing. As good as Miller and Ryan are – the play is beginning to show its age. That is not to say that it is not still funny, it just doesn’t seem to be as funny as when it first came out. No fault of the actors or the production. They were just terrific. The play has some real good stuff in it like: BBB – Better Baptist Bourbon. And this funny line — Human rights? Why Bother!

This part farce, part slapstick play has an underlying truth to it. Just go to the South of the country and you will see these characters, and they are not acting. It’s them. And that is the genius of this play. It’s so classic that it is painfully funny. Yep, it sure is small town America ruled by Baptists.

When I attended, the audience just lapped it up and laughed it up. They were having a blast. So here is how to find Tuna Texas: THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER.

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! – trademarked-

SHAWN RYAN TONIGHT

When I say tonight – I mean this Friday night Aug. 24. Before this show goes on it’s national tour – you can say that you saw it first here in San Fran. Ryan, as you know was a finalist on the “America’s Got Talent’. He was already a hot ticket everywhere that he appeared – but AGT gave the talented entertainer an extra boost. Now, he is in the fabulous full-fledged musical extravaganza at the Herbst Theater right next to the Opera House. Imagine – from the “P” Room to a full-fledged venue. Like it’s “Roses Turn” – it’s now “Shawn’s Turn” to knock’em dead. Like a speeding High Speed Train (You know the kind that we will never get in this town) Ryan says: “This will be the Concert Event of the year. I will be joined on the stage by fantastic dancers and the 14 piece Kelly Park Orchestra” – He gushed.

‘The Shawnettes’ and hot dancers will be whirling around, plus a special guest known for his on stage performance in Hair Spray, the musical. It may be late – but if you hurry to the box office you may still find a couple of tix. Ryan claims to be “The Love child of Bette Midler and Peter Allen.” www.cityboxoffice.com.

AVENUE Q AND JERSEY BOYS:

What do they have in common? Well, they just gave up an evening of their time to do a special show for The Richard/Ermet Aids Foundation. It was an evening of music and comedy that we will never see again. The evening was a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and REAF. All good causes SHOUT THIS OUT! The wonderful actors/singers from Avenue Q were Angela Ai, Christian Andersen, Minglie Chen , Rich Dart, Jennie Kwan Maggie Lakis Rob McClure Cole Porter, Carla Renata, Seth Rettberg, Erica Robinson, Kelli Sawyer, Danielle Thomas, and Cullen Titmas. Thanks guys and gals for a fearlessly original very funny show.

THE JERSEY BOYS CAST:

Lyndsey Cole, Jon Michael Dias, Mike Erickson, Drew Gehling, Steven M. Goldsmith, John Hickman, Jeremy Kushnier, Craig Laurie, Lauren Marshall, Rashad Naylor, Jenny Lee Ramos, Jake Speck, Jarrod Spector, Johnathan Weir and Ryan Quinn West. You Guys and Gals set a record for Talent. It was a real, audacious laugh-out funny time. And the music and the laughs…it just knocked me out! I was exhausted after the evening was over. Even the auction part of the show was a hoot. Jeremy Kushnier and Rob McClure wrote the Special Show. Box Office Chair: Al Treuter.

As you know…the Richmond/Ermet Aids Foundation presents a few very special shows a year to help benefit charities. The next one that you absolutely will love is the “One Night Only Cabaret” that will feature company members from the Best of Broadway touring cast of ‘Mama Mia’ at Club Fugazi on Monday Sept. 10, 7:30 P.M. ABBA, ABBA, ABBA – You’ll be dancing in the aisles as these Broadway stars perform song selections of their own choice to present an evening of upbeat, high-energy music and comedy. TIX: BEACH BLANKET BOX OFFICE AT: 415-421-4222.

They say that getting out makes you live longer. DO IT! ….and tell me about it. leehartgraveshow@yahoo.com.

The Photo of Lee Hartgrave Boy Reporter is by Jim Ferreira – Film Noir & Hollywood Glamour. www.lafterhall.com.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME HERE: leehartgraveshow@yahoo.com

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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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