Mr. Rhythm & Blues | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Mr. Rhythm & Blues

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MR. RHYTHM & BLUES, at HotHouse. Colin Jones walked onstage 25 minutes late for the opening night of his solo cabaret performance carrying a martini shaker and a glass, perhaps hoping to evoke some semblance of the 1940s jazz-and-cocktail culture surrounding his fictional alter ego, crooner Arty Baker. Arriving center stage and discovering he had no place to put them, he dumped them unceremoniously on the floor, then waited awkwardly for his light cue--which didn't come until he'd begun his monologue in the dark.

It took all of 30 seconds to see how ill prepared Jones was. He attempts to spin a street-smart tale of self-made jazzman Baker, who rises from poverty to achieve success as a big-band singer, but his script is sketchy and his character one-dimensional. Jones adopts a cartoonish hepcat voice, then belabors every phrase--think Scatman Crothers with mild aphasia--giving equal emphasis to incidental details and life-changing revelations, which makes his talk exhausting to listen to. Occasionally he sings jazz standards, which often seem arbitrarily chosen and inserted; despite able piano accompaniment, Jones finds little personal connection to the lyrics.

The final indignity was that Jones didn't even finish the show. With a restless post-Blues Fest crowd milling near the entrance, HotHouse pulled the plug on Mr. Rhythm & Blues after it ran 40 minutes into the next scheduled set.

--Justin Hayford

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