This is one of those rare moments. I just returned from a wonderful theatrical experience in Milwaukee that should really be classified as “Cabaret” (I have it under CABARET as well), but for all intents and purposes, I feel the need to put it in as a play review. There is a story involved. The Stackner Cabaret, one of three venues at Milwaukee Repertory Theater is where it takes place, and it is their tradition to showcase actor/musicians/vocalists, doing “their thing”. The current production, “Low Down Dirty Blues”, tells us about a group of musicians gathering in their club, after hours, to swap stories and share their love of the Blues. We, the audience, get to watch this all take place and as the story progresses, Big mama (the always phenomenal Felicia Fields) does make the audience feel right at home! Wow, does she!
Featured in this two hours of sassy, sensual and sultry music are Chic Street Man, Caron “Sugaray” Rayford and Robert Stephens along with Ms Fields. The show is written by Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman and directed by Myler, with musical direction by Dan Wheetman. The set (Collette Pollard) is a small stage in a club, somewhere on the south side of Chicago. You must remember that in the Blues days, the south side is where it all took place and much of the music was born at Chess records on Wabash Avenue near Thirteenth Street.
The music you hear is that of legends, Ma Rainey, Muddy Waters, Sophie Tucker, Howlin’ Wolf, Pearl Baily and many more. Twenty-Two hot and smoking songs such as “They Call Me Big Mama”, “Crawlin King Snake”, “Rock Me All Night”, “Good Morning Heartache” and many more. many of these names will not seem familiar, but if you love Blues, it will not take you long to fall in love with these four talented people and their work on this very intimate stage.
Let me take a few moments to explain this intimate space to you; The Stackner Cabaret is upstairs of the theater and as you enter the bar area, you can see the dining area where the production takes place. You can enjoy a drink before the show or a dinner or just a snack. Even desserts. Our group tried several of the entrees- a juicy burger, the Fork & Knife Rib Eye Steak (a sandwich “to die for”) and the Harvest Chicken sandwich (sounded better than it was, but the sides were terrific and the portions more than expected for the menu prices). Great choice of starters and the squash soup looked great (the people next to us called it “divine”)- I am ready for the next time, for sure!
By the way,they offer a full service bar and huge selection of coffees and teas-hot and cold. Special drinks- “Rough and Ready, Jump My Pony, My Mojo Hand and Money Maker all seem like fun and truly tie into the theme of the evening. Let’s face it, the supper clubs of the past are now gone and the places where you can have dinner and a show, dwindling.It is truly a pleasure to drive up to Milwaukee (an easy drive on the tollway system) and find parking (FREE) on the street. If not, even the garages are far less costly than the city. The Rep has three theaters available and in this, the cabaret, dinner can be purchased as well as drinks. The Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex is an amazing place to visit.
“Low Down Dirty Blues” will continue at The Rep thru May 24th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m.
Tickets start at $40 and are available by calling 414-224-9490 or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com
The box office is located at 108 E. Wells Street in Milwaukee’s Downtown Theater District
looking ahead at the remaining schedule-2015/16 some major shows highlighting the life and blues of Bessie Smith, “On The Road with John Denver” and much more.