BWW Reviews: MAURICE HINES IS TAPPIN' THRU LIFE Combines Incredible Dancing and Heartfelt Memories
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents MAURICE HINES IS TAPPIN' THRU LIFE for 19 performances only from May 9 - 24, 2014 in the Bram Goldsmith Theater. Maurice Hines, a Tony Award nominee, is a celebrated dancer, choreographer, director, and singer, whose impressive career spans over 40 years. Directed by Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun (Broadway's Newsies and Grey Gardens), The show features D.C.'s dynamic tap-dancing duo, the Manzari Brothers, 11-year old tapping phenomenon Luke Spring, as well as the all-female, nine-piece big band, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra. MAURICE HINES IS TAPPIN' THRU LIFE is a co-production with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Arena Stage, Alliance Theatre and Cleveland Play House.
Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life - Photo by Teresa Wood.
The show is a celebration of the life of Maurice Hines, his brother Gregory, and their parents who Maurice fondly remembers throughout the show. Adding to the emotional content, moveable screens that divide the orchestra from the performing area were often used to display photographs of the Hines family in their early days. And throughout the show, Hines, now a young 70 years old, expresses sheer joy in entertaining his audience, singing and dancing with a passion from deep within his soul. You can't help but be pulled into the magic!
Maurice Hines, who started performing at five years old, brings the history of American tap to life and pays tribute to his brother Gregory and the singers who inspired him, from Frank Sinatra to Lena Horne. To assist the audience in better understanding what roadblocks were faced in their early careers, photos of signs from segregation bring home the fact that even though the young Hines brothers were performing on the Las Vegas Strip, they were not allowed to stay in the hotels where they were performing or even swim in the hotel pool. In fact, when they were invited to the hotel where Tallulah Bankhead was performing, she threatened to not perform if her young guests were not allowed to enjoy the pool. They were, but afterwards the pool was drained before white guests were allowed to venture back into it. It's a startling revelation, given how far we have come by electing a black President of the United States.
Maurice also saluted his brother by performing a duet with a spotlight representing the place where his brother always danced next to him. The number is an ode to the deep love shared between the brothers who spent their whole lives entertaining others, both together and separately. It was easy to feel the spirit of Gregory dancing in that spotlight with his brother.
Hines also shared tidbits from their 37 appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as well as appearing onstage with Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland, with whom they never rehearsed before performing with her onstage. Hines also pays tribute to music greats Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin,
(L-R) John and Leo Manzari - Photo by Teresa Wood.
In a nod to the future of tap, Hines showcases the talents of the D.C. tap dancing duo, John and Leo Manzari, now 21 and 18 respectively, who reunite with their mentor Hines after their whirlwind run performing alongside him in Arena Stage's production of Sophisticated Ladies, which earned each brother a Helen Hayes Award nomination. Watching the two young and talented tappers was like watching Maurice and Gregory together onstage again, flying feet in action.
Rounding out the cast of performers, and definitely the surprise of the night, is 11-year-old tapping phenomenon Luke Spring who began dancing at the age of 4, wowed TV audiences on the "Ellen" show at 7 years old and also was featured in the new Broadway production of A Christmas Story. His solo number is a real show-stopper, with each move garnering gasps of amazement from the audience. His standing ovation was truly well deserved. This young talent embodies the next generation of tapping talent along with his Manzari Brother co-stars. In a very comical, as well as inspiring number, the three tappers all attempt to outdo each other and then team up in a routine that let the audience know these three young men are definitely here to sty. Look out world!
Members of The Diva Orchestra.- Photo by Tony Powell.
Hines is backed by nine members of the internationally renowned DIVA Jazz Orchestra, an all-female powerhouse ensemble. Voted one of the best big bands in the world by DownBeat magazine, DIVA is led by music director, drummer and longtime Hines collaborator Sherrie Maricle and features Karen Hammack (piano) Lori Stuntz (trombone) Carol Chaikin (baritone sax), Nedra Wheeler (acoustic bass) and Glenda Smith (lead trumpet), along with Scheila Gonzales (lead alto saxophone) Barbara Laronga (trumpet) and Sharon Hirata (tenor saxophone). These women are INCREDIBLE musicians and often injected back-up vocals on several songs, as well as encouraging the audience to join in with them. Nedra's solo with Hines was the most inspiring acoustic bass performance I have ever seen, as was Sherrie's drum solo during which hands seemed to fly faster than the speed of light.
Director, Jeff Calhoun says, "Having begun my career at the age of 16, tap dancing with Ann Miller, you can imagine what an honor it is to be working with Maurice Hines. Maurice is not only one of the finest song and dance men of our time, but his firsthand experiences with American racism of the 50s and his hobnobbing with the likes of Pearl Bailey, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Marlene Dietrich, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra (just to name a few) make him a treasure raconteur. He is that rare breed whose tongue is as facile as his tapping feet. Maurice is a first-rate life-enhancing entertainer." Congrats Jeff on brilliantly directing the show!
Maurice Hines adds, "This show started with my wanting to celebrate my brother, Gregory. I read an article on tap dance a few years ago and his name wasn't mentioned - so wrong! But now I get the change t honor properly what a fabulous tap dancer he was. This show also gives me the opportunity to thank the fantastically effortless performers who influenced me, from Judy Garland to Lena Horne to Nat King Cole."
Hines dedicates this show to his mother, Alma, who he speaks of as "a truly remarkable lady who supported and nurtured our love of performing. Whenever I am on stage, I always follow the advice she told Greg and me, 'No matter what you do on stage and in life, always do it with class!'" And that he does!
MAURICE HINES IS TAPPIN' THRU LIFE performances on Friday, May 9 through Saturday, May 24, 2014, on Saturdays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm & 7:00pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00pm. The show runs for 90 minutes with no intermission.
Maurice Hines.- Photo by Tony Powell.
Maurice Hines - Photo by Teresa Wood.
Photo by Teresa Wood.
Maurice Hines - Photo by Teresa Wood.