Here is a solo show that has already completed its all too brief run at Capital Fringe. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know about it. In fact, starting July 29th, it will be playing a month-long engagement at Soho Playhouse in NYC, so now please plan a weekend excursion and marvel at Melissa Ritz in her tour de force show called Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story.
I hope to see this show back in our area again soon so more people can be introduced to Ina Ray Hutton and Melissa Ritz’s stunning portrayal.
Ina Ray Hutton was born Odessa Cowan and half African-American in Brownsville, Illinois, something she would have to hide for her entire career. With a love of everything that entertains, which she got from her piano playing mom Marvel, she is discovered by Gus Edwards who offers her a job in NY as a chorus girl. From there she graduated to the Ziegfeld Follies as a dancer. She eventually has her hair dyed blonde by a producer who sticks a baton in her hand and tells her to knock his all female band into shape. Odessa is now known as Ina Ray Hutton and gets more notice than the musicians for her curvy shape and sexy blonde bombshell looks. Unfortunately, along the way as with many female acts in the 1920s and 30s, Ina encounters prejudice from her male counterparts and is constantly considered nothing more than a novelty act even though she sells out wherever she and her band plays.
Melissa Ritz hits the stage and holds us from beginning to end. She plays multiple characters including a few males and nails every characterization. Considering Ritz comes from a military background and this is her first solo piece, her performance is quite remarkable. It’s as polished as some performers who have been at it much longer. She has the look and everything else to do justice to one of the unsung performers of the early 20th century.
The show utilizes eighteen songs of the period including “Knock Me a Kiss” and “Tomcat Blues.” I was very impressed that Ritz’s music track that consists of arrangements by Barry Best is played by all live musicians out of Las Vegas. The songs have plenty of swing to them and even though it’s all “on tape” it feels quite live because it’s all real people playing.
The only thing that this show needs is a little bit stronger of an ending. I won’t reveal anything but it just feels a little abrupt the way it is now.
Overall, Melissa Ritz and Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story was definitely worth my trip to Anacostia and will make a good little NY trip for you. I hope to see this show back in our area again soon so more people can be introduced to Ina Ray Hutton and Melissa Ritz’s stunning portrayal.
Running Time: 70 minutes with no intermission.
Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story played its final performance on July 19th 2015 at the Anacostia Arts Center.
For info on the NY engagement, click here.
For info on Capital Fringe, click here.