The All Night Strut: A Fascinatin’ Rhythm
Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre, which marks its 25th anniversary this year, has new owners, and a new artistic direction, as well.
The first show under the new management is a well-executed, lively, toe-tapping 1940s cabaret revue. It features an energetic, brassy seven-piece band led by the estimable Charles Cooper (who guided the music in And the Dream Goes On!) and extensive choreography by director Pepper Von (who danced up a storm in the same show).
There’s also a harmonizing vocal quartet, a team of nine dancers (some in their teens), numerous costumes (Gina Coyle) and a more complex lighting than we’ve seen in the past (Louis Hudson).
American society in the 1940s had a color line, which is erased here. The show mixes swing-band standards by white artists (“Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Tuxedo Junction”), gospel (“Operator,” well sung by Elise Reese), love songs (“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”), an early salsa hit (“Ran Kan Kan”), a tap-dance number and songs from black clubs (“Minnie the Moocher,” which got the mostly white audience calling, “Heidi heidi heidi hi”).
This being a ’40s show, there’s a World War II tribute, including a choreographed battle scene and a “back home” vignette in which a black mother learns her son has died.
(Note: this show is not to be confused with a similarly titled revue that played at Celebration Arts Theatre some years back—and covered a somewhat different set of songs.)