Ruby Hayes Sings Bessie’s Blues

Paul A. Greene

Ruby Hayes.

Full of foot-stomping, exciting music, Ruby Hayes Sings Bessie’s Blues reveals the life of blues singing legend Bessie Smith and surrounds it with some of her memorable songs.

Ruby Hayes, an international blues and jazz singer, wrote the show to tell the dramatic details of Smith’s life, and to sing the marvelous songs for new audiences. The production shows one evening’s rehearsal between Hayes and her band, with her revealing Smith’s biography to them as they play her songs.

It takes a little while for Hayes to warm up, but once there, she really sings with heart and soul. Expressive and saucy, she brings bounce and feeling to the words without overpowering them with bravura singing.

The musicians really bring the show alive with their passionate, charismatic playing. Pianist Roger Harrison, drummer Bob Sullivan, and bassist Abdul Latif possess fine chemistry and timing with each other, and each gets their moment to shine. They propel the show forward with their energetic performances, providing fine accompaniment which complements Hayes’ singing.

Director Bryan Rasmussen does what he can to introduce some action into the show, but the small stage and band restrict movement and keeps it locked into place. Pacing also lags with the straight telling of the story instead of presenting dramatic moments to illustrate it.

Ruby Hayes Sings Bessie’s Blues features some of Smith’s greatest hits in an entertaining look at the legendary performer.

Ruby Hayes Sings Bessie’s Blues plays Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. through May 9 at the Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks.

Tickets cost $20. Call 866-811-4111 for reservations, or visit www.rubyhayes.com.

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