Regional Reviews: Phoenix
This revue, which was conceived by Fran Charnas and had a brief Off-Broadway run in 1979, is a "trip down memory lane" for those who grew up in that era. Younger theatregoers might not quite understand how important these songs were to those who went through the Great Depression or World War II. With sentimental numbers like "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," the reflections of war and the impact of hard times are deeply felt through the lyrics of these songs. But this revue also features plenty of upbeat big band inspired tunes as well and, while some of the songs aren't that well-known, there are many classic tunes in the show. However, while the show itself is fun, there really isn't much substance to it and the transitions between the songs are sometimes a bit jarring. Fortunately, the arrangements, both for the band and the stellar vocal arrangements for the four member cast, are excellent and the cast deliver energetic performances which help give some dimension to the material.
The foursome include Trisha Ditsworth, Brittney Mack, Christopher George Patterson, and Toby Yatso, all of whom have exceptional, expressive deliveries of their lyrics and superb voices that wring the emotion, heartbreak, and joy from their songs. Some highlights: Yatso's emotionally wrought "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?," Ditsworth's lush, sentimental delivery of "I'll Be Seeing You," Patterson's soulful and soaring "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," and Mack's fiery "Operator." The four contribute searing harmonies throughout as well as some lively dancing including Patterson's brief, but very fun, tap dancing.
Director and choreographer Michael Jenkinson adds plenty of razzle dazzle and always changing dance steps to the show that keeps it lively. Alan Ruch's music direction and conducting of the bandare exceptional. The lighting design by Daniel Davisson paints Douglas Clarke's lovely art deco inspired set with a never ending palette of lush colors. Cari Sue Smith's costumes and Terre Steed's hair and make-up designs are evocative of the period and the sound design by Marie Quinn provides crisp and clear lyrics and a vibrancy to the band.
The All Night Strut is more a concert of the music of the Big Band era than a musical. It also lacks a lot when compared to other musicals, since there is no story or character development beyond what exists in the individual song lyrics, and younger theatre goers, who may not be familiar with the material, might be underwhelmed by the songs. Fortunately Phoenix Theatre has a great cast, awesome band and upbeat choreography and direction that overcome some of these shortfalls as they bring back as the show states "the glorious music of the 1930s and 1940s."
The All Night Strut runs through May 1st, 2016 at the Phoenix Theatre at 100 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at phoenixtheatre.com or by calling 602-254-2151.
Michael Jenkinson: Director/Choreographer
*Members of Actors' Equity Association