This week’s ”Stage” page offers an interview with Ed Smith, the outgoing artistic director of Jubilee Theatre. Smith directed Jubilee’s current revue Blues in the Night and is unquestionably responsible for injecting dramatic complexity and a real sense of artistic risk into the seasons scheduled during his four-year tenure.
I’ll never forget his brutal, dream-like, half-tragic and half-lowdown funny 2009 production of The Bluest Eye. North Texas audiences may not get another chance to see August Wilson’s eccentric, rarely staged Gem of the Ocean (directed by Akin Babatunde earlier this summer) for a long time. Replacing Smith will be a tall order.
In honor of Smith, here are performances of some of the standout songs from Blues in the Night by classic artists. Sarah Vaughan does a spinetingling ”Willow Weep for Me”, and, later in her career, a loose and bluesy ”Lush Life,” Smith’s two favorite tunes. (For a somewhat snappier “Lush Life,” check out this Ella Fitzgerald version with guitarist Joe Pass). ”Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” gets a wise and blunt reading by an 83 year old Alberta Hunter. Etta James delivers a smoky, surging rendition of ”These Foolish Things.” And last but hardly least, the great Ida Cox saunters through the important reminder ”Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues.”