How do you segue from a classical Broadway play like “Cats“ to the sultry, smoothness of blues singer Bonnie Raitt?
Actually it’s a whole lot easier than it sounds. The Raitt family did it readily enough. John Raitt lit up the footlights on Broadway as star in the original productions of “Oklahoma,” “Carousel” and “The Pajama Game,” while daughter Bonnie set her musical sights differently and has walked away with nine Grammy awards so far and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her folksy-bluesy take on contemporary sounding tunes.
The Akron Civic Theatre also makes these sorts of transitions. The theater tends to book one-nighters or single-weekend events. When it does, however, according to media director Valerie Renner, “the theater fills up.” “We have had great success in getting big acts and bringing them to Akron.”
This week the Andrew Lloyd Webber sanctioned version of the touring Broadway show “Cats” came to town.
“It was a coup,” Renner noted. There’d been a cancellation elsewhere; and “because of the status of the Civic, they came to us.”
Good that they did too, because the show was wonderful. I always figured I was going to be the last person in the world, certainly in North America, to see the longest continuously running Broadway show ever. I’d still think so, but I ran into people that evening just like me.
The improbable story (taken from the writings of T.S. Eliot, notably Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) is about a bunch of junkyard cats showing off their near humanness while gathering to select one among them to be hoisted off to cat heaven (Heaviside). There the “winner” is undoubtedly given another of its potential nine lives.
The show is filled with illustrious songs, especially the show-stopping “Memory,” as sung marvelously by the character of Grisabella (played by Melissa Grohowski).
With “Cats“ gone, Bonnie Raitt is on her way for the evening of May 23.
Raitt is releasing her 19th album, “Slipstream,” and this tour will launch sales for it. While Raitt’s last several albums featured younger songwriters’ materials, “Slipstream” apparently draws songs from her contemporaries, including Paul Brady and Michael O’Keefe’s “Marriage Made in Hollywood,” and a reggae-fied version of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line.”
Raitt’s warm up act and special guest will be American folk-rock singer and songwriter Marc Cohn.
Bonnie Raitt will appear at Akron Civic Theatre on May 23, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $37.50-$75.50 and are available at www.livenation.com and at the theater box office. 182 South Main St, Akron; 330-253-2488; www.akroncivic.com