by Roberto Friedman
San Francisco musician Pamela Rose wrote and produced Blues Is a Woman, a musical theater piece making its Bay Area debut at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Thurs., March 30, at 8 p.m. It's a performance of 25 songs that show the role of women in blues music history. Just as playwright Jewelle Gomez's new play Leaving the Blues is about blues singer Alberta Hunter (reviewed in this issue), Rose's concert theater piece showcases other notable lesbian blues musicians including Ma Rainey , Bessie Smith and Sophie Tucker. Other women musicians in the piece include Memphis Minnie , Peggy Lee and Bonnie Raitt.
In a press statement Rose said her theater piece is "about that specific, fierce, independent voice of women in the blues, from the beginning to now. As you can imagine, that voice which re-emerged in the 1960s through artists such as Nina Simone has particular weight as these songs of resistance and power resonate today more than ever." We get it.
Rose's celebration of women in blues involves an ensemble of players (Tammy Hall, Ruth Davies, Pat Wilder, Daria Johnson and Kristen Strom ) performing blues songs, complemented with storytelling and rare historical film. The show at F&S, a concert and CD release party for the cast recording, is also a preview of sorts of a month-long run coming to the Custom Made Theater, 533 Sutter St., SF, this summer, Aug. 3-27. The Freight & Salvage is found at 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. Info: thefreight.org/pamela-rose-wild-women-song.
Meanwhile this summer will mark the sixth season of Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma. In this series, Broadway artists perform in concerts among the 150-year-old Winery Ruins in Jack London Park. But we don't have to wait until summer to experience what the Broadway troupe will bring. Transcendence Theatre Company will present Best of Broadway Under the Stars at the Marin Center (10 Ave. of the Flags, San Rafael) this coming Sat. & Sun., March 18 & 19. Tickets: BestOfBroadwayMarin.com. Info: transcendencetheatre.org
And the musical notes keep coming. This week soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci is appearing in composer Francis Poulenc's 1958 monodrama La Voix humaine (The Human Voice) at SF Opera Lab, accompanied by pianist Donald Sulzen. Antonacci is an internationally acclaimed artist who rarely performs outside of Europe, but she enjoys a special connection with San Francisco, and this will be her fifth engagement with San Francisco Opera since 1992. To have seen her in the 2015 summer season Les Troyens is to be in thrall to the opportunity to hear her in closer proximity as she performs La Voix in an intimate space. One remaining performance, this Friday night, March 17. Info: sfoperalab.com.