It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues

May 22 — June 24, 2012
On the U.S. Bank Main Stage

By Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor and Dan Wheetman
Based on an original idea by Ron Taylor
Directed by Randal Myler
“A master class on the birth of the blues” —NJ Star Ledger

“Looking for a sure cure to the blues? Latch on to a ticket for It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues. More than a musical feast… it is a potent blend of visual eloquence and historical sweep that engages the eye and touches the heart, while its songs soothe the ear, occasionally work mischief on the funny bone and always raise the spirits.” —The New York Times

From African chants and Delta spirituals to the urban electricity of a Chicago nightclub, from dusty backroads bluegrass to the twang of a country juke joint, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues is a stirring retrospective of blues classics that summons the soul of American music. Over two dozen musical numbers are included, among them “I’m Your Hoochie-Coochie Man,” “Goodnight, Irene,” “Fever,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Let the Good Times Roll.” It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical, and has played to rave reviews all over the country. Through the music that is cherished as an original American art form, the standout group of musicians and singers on stage share a moving American story of troubles and triumph.

Performance times:
Tuesday - Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m
Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Thursday matinees at noon

A full list of performances and dates will appear when you enter the ticketing section of the website.

It Ain’t Nothin But the Blues runs approximately two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.

View the cast and creative team bios

View the playbill for It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues

Learn more about accessibility options at PCS

Performance Times

Evenings: Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Matinees: Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m.,
Thursdays at noon

*Note: These are general performance times. Certain productions may have exceptions. View the season calendar for more information.

This show's run time will be posted below the synopsis at left near the date of the first performance.

Production blog

What’s Your Blues Name?

What’s Your Blues Name?

13 June 2012 & Posted by Kinsley Suer

Everyone loves a good nickname. Whether they’ll admit it or not, it’s nice to have a special term of endearment that’s reserved specifically for you. But what if no one has taken the time to give you the creative, bluesy moniker you know you deserve? We’d say it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Just take a peek at this blues name alphabet and plug in your initials. My blues name is Curly Bones Davis. What’s yours?


Under the Influence of the Blues

07 June 2012 & Posted by Kinsley Suer

It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues traces the history and progression of blues music, from Mississippi Delta blues to the electric blues style of post-war Chicago. But what came after? Almost every genre of popular music today has, in one way or another, been influenced by blues music. Jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, country and rock ‘n’ roll (and all music that would later spawn from these genres) are just a few of the styles that owe much of their progression and style to blues music.


Meet the Cast of “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues”

25 May 2012 & Posted by Kinsley Suer

Boy, can they sing! We’ve assembled an amazing ensemble of musicians and artists for our production of It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues - including some of the original cast members from the Broadway production! Can’t wait to see the show in person? Here are a few video clips of each of our cast members, to tide you over until you see them live on our Main Stage.



Art for It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues View on Flickr »

Sugaray Rayford talks It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues with Oregon Music News. View on YouTube »

Sugaray Rayford performs Muddy Water’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.” View on Vimeo »

Trailer for It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues. View on Vimeo »

Reviews and Features

Chris Bisgard | Broadsheet360 [Review 12 Jun 2012]

Maybe it’s due to the years I spent working behind the scenes, or maybe it’s because the immediacy of a live performance makes its flaws so much more glaring, but I don’t often walk away from a theatrical production feeling completely satisfied. So, believe me when I say that It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, running through June 24 at Portland Center Stage, is not only satisfying—it’s one hell of a good time.

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Holly Johnson | The Oregonian [Review 12 Jun 2012]

It’s no secret. The blues can cheer you up, even after your heart has been wrenched from your chest.

In the newly opened musical revue at Portland Center Stage, “It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues,” the cherished American musical form is celebrated pull-out-all-the-stops style by six top-notch vocalists and five band members who appear to be plugged into an unlimited energy source. Although thin on narrative and rather in a hurry to squeeze nearly 40 songs into a two-hour evening, the show’s a solid crowd-pleaser because the performances are so strong and the songs are legendary.

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Matt Lurie | Red Door Project [Review 12 Jun 2012]

Unlike just about any other music genre, the blues has an official color. Blue is a lot of things—the color of the sky and the sea, of cornflower and denim, of about one-quarter of our flag—but most importantly, it’s at the foundation of all American music. Named for “blue devils,” demons that were once thought to be responsible for sadness, the blues is the music of the poor, the marginalized, the lonely, and the misunderstood. It’s the sound of the individual: like the blood in our veins, the blues is bluest when it comes from within.

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Rebecca Jacobson | Willamette Week [Review 31 May 2012]

The history of the blues is complex, meandering its way from rhythmic African chants to Southern spirituals to Chicago pop hits. In Portland Center Stage’s final production of the season, however, this history gets only shallow treatment. That’s a shame. The show is a rousing, entertaining jaunt, but for those unschooled in the development of the genre, more guidance would have been helpful.

The more than 30 musical numbers in It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues unfold chronologically. The first act features the seven-member cast in Depression-style garb, relying on acoustic guitar and simple percussion to perform the plantation work songs and church anthems. Act two adds a five-piece band and spangled evening wear, placing us in a Chicago nightclub. The performers, largely out-of-towners, are terrific and varied: Mississippi Charles Bevel shows phenomenal range and soulful restraint; Jennifer Leigh Warren has powerhouse pipes and endearing spunk; and “Sugaray” Rayford is built like a linebacker but whips out some of the show’s smoothest dance moves. Director Randal Myler, one of five creators of the show, keeps the staging simple and the choreography subtle.

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Chloe Hagerman | Be Portland [Review 29 May 2012]

Portland Center Stage wraps up its 24th season at The Armory with It Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues. Quite literally, the production was nothing but the blues throughout the evening. Seven wonderful singers and an accompanying band take you on a journey of the evolution of blues music, and you are free to cry, laugh and clap along. Every song is accompanied by pictures on projectors above the singers to give you a visual representation of the good times and the bad.

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