Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: Bessie’s Blues at MetroStage

Bessie's Blues  Photo by Chris Banks
Bessie’s Blues – Photo: Chris Banks

Twenty years ago, Studio Theatre won six Helen Hayes Awards with its production of Bessie’s Blues by Thomas W. Jones II. If you missed its first outing, you might wonder what all the fuss was about. Bernardine Mitchell reprises the lead role at MetroStage, and is the chief reason to see the revival. Mitchell has one of the most powerful voices around, with stupendous range, conjuring Bessie Smith and other blues-informed divas, from Aretha Franklin to Patti LaBelle.

The subtle way the music helps narrate the history and the influence of the blues is impressive, but the script itself is a little too loose in telling us about Smith especially. Bessie’s Blues uses both interpretive acting as well as interpretive dancing — and even if you don’t find that pretentious, it can be befuddling. The show is on soundest footing when it keeps the focus on Mitchell and the music.

Closes Sunday, March 15. MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St., Alexandria. Tickets are $55 to $60. Call 800-494-8497 or visit

Read Doug Rule’s full review here.

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