BY Brandon Voss
July 12 2011 6:00 AM ET
The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith
Thanks to brassy powerhouse Miche Braden, “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith is alive and swell in this bio musical. Boozing at a Memphis buffet flat on the last night of her life in 1937, Smith shares painful anecdotes and belts songs from her 1920s heyday like “St. Louis Blues” and “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” Angelo Parra’s script also tackles her unapologetic bisexuality, which led to her losing custody of her adopted son.
St. Luke's Theatre, open-ended.
The Greenwich Village Follies
A lightweight but charmingly slapdash homage to the Greenwich Village Follies of the 1920s, this educational variety show by Andrew Frank and Doug Silver celebrates the Manhattan hood through quirky vignettes and clever musical numbers about the area’s colorful history and famous artistic residents. Highlights include a raunchy ditty about the abundance of porn shops and a joyously bedraggled tribute to the Stonewall riots of 1969.
Manhattan Theatre Source, open-ended.
The Eyes of Babylon
Jeff Key’s engaging solo show about his stint overseas as a U.S. Marine culminates with his resignation from the military and his criticism of its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on CNN. Because the monologue is based on Key’s journals, it’s a bit flowery — “the smell of me wafts up and in to fuel my coming dreams,” he waxes poetic of “self-love making” — but you won’t find a smarter account of the Iraq war by an openly gay serviceman.
59E59 Theatres, closed July 3.
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