‘Blues in the Night’ gives old songs new life

Carol Woods has got the blues. So do Freda Payne, Paulette Ivory and Maurice Hines. But Woods has them more.

The singers, appearing in “Blues in the Night” onstage at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre, are all radiant, but Woods somehow goes the extra distance.

When she belts “Got a moon above me, but no one to love me/Lover man, oh, where can you be?” she’s absolutely forlorn. Later in the show, singing Bessie Smith’s “Wasted Life Blues,” she wails, “No one seems to care enough for poor me, to give me a word of sympathy … Wonder what will become of poor me?” and it’s positively devastating.

The good news is that Sheldon Epps’ musical revue, featuring classic and lesser-known tunes from the 1920s and ’30s, isn’t a downer. One number proudly proclaims “I Gotta Right To Sing the Blues”; audiences will be thrilled to revel in the range of emotion, from sassy to sad, the music and performers provide.

There’s not much of a story, and the characters don’t have names beyond descriptions: the Man in the Saloon (Hines), the Woman of the World (Payne), the Lady from the Road (Woods) and the Girl With a Date (Ivory).

Yet the lack of structure — beyond the women being residents of a fleabag motel, awake in the wee hours one night, feeling and sharing pain, while the guy shares his opposite, positive perspective — doesn’t matter. For it’s the singers and the songs that fuel the show.

In addition to singing the most piercingselections, Woods also performs the funny suggestive novelty tunes “Take Me for a Buggy Ride” and “Kitchen Man.”

Payne romps in “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and dials things down in “Lush Life,” while Ivory starts hopeful with “Taking a Chance on Love” but later experiences reality with “Willow Weep for Me.”

Hines exemplifies an oblivious male attitude with “I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So” and “Baby Doll,” in which he has a killer tap dance solo.

Under direction by Rahn Coleman, the jumpin’ band wonderfully rounds out the sound in a nifty show that ought to appeal both to longtime blues fans and those who’d like an everlasting American genre.

Blues in the Night

Where: Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 30

Tickets: $40 to $75

Contact: (415) 771-6900 or www.ticketmaster.com

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