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BWW Review: MAURICE HINES TAPPIN' THRU LIFE Shimmers With Warmth And Elegance

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After making their television debuts cavorting with the likes of Jackie Gleason and Jack Benny, the young tap dancing duo of Maurice Hines and his little brother Gregory, began cutting their showbiz teeth as Las Vegas nightclub performers at the famed Moulin Rouge, a venue showcasing performers of color who were restricted from the high-profile joints on the strip.

Maurice Hines (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Not even ten years old yet, it wasn't long before the duo became the darlings of show business royalty like Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland and an in-demand opening act. Johnny Carson booked them on The Tonight Show thirty-seven times, helping them become nationally known stars.

The kind of supper club sophistication the fellas no-doubt gleaned from this upbringing shimmers with warmth and elegance in the elder Hines' Off-Broadway nightclub revue, TAPPIN' THRU LIFE, an autobiographical highlight reel with an emphasis on the good times.

At 72 years of age, Hines is a gracious and sublimely polished entertainer. He croons standards like "I've Never Been In Love Before," "Smile" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" that have been integrated into his tale of a devoted mother who saw talent in her sons and gave them the opportunity to develop it, and a brother, who passed on in 2003, with whom he shared success before their careers took separate paths. Scrapbook photos flash before the audience in director Jeff Calhoun's high-energy production.

And oh, how he dances. The clean, rapid-fire taps are presented with a sleek, panther-like gracefulness. He's a man driven to entertain. There's only passing mention of enduring racism; an incident involving Tallulah Bankhead standing up for the young men when a hotel wouldn't let them use their pool. He tells us there was a ten year period when he and his brother wouldn't speak to each other, but that just sets up a touching story of how they were reunited. Broadway fans won't be hearing any stories of the unfortunate flops he starred in without his brother after he and Gregory Hines made a splash together in EUBIE! This is ninety minutes of thinking positive.

It's also a show about helping other performers get a break. It's probably not mere coincidence that the nine-piece jazz band behind him is comprised of all women. Music director/drummer Sherrie Maricle's Diva Jazz Orchestra is a sensational ensemble that floors the patrons from the very opening and, after this past Saturday night's performance, had a large percentage of the audience remaining until the end of the show's exit music, most of them screaming for an encore at the finish.

Leo Manzari, Maurice Hines and John Manzari
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)

There are numerous featured moments for Liesl Whitaker (lead trumpet), Jami Dauber (trumpet), Sara Jacovino (trombone), Alexa Tarantino (alto sax), Roxy Cross (tenor sax), Lauren Sevian (baritone sax), Jackie Warren (piano) and Amy Shook (bass), and when Maricle takes over for an extended solo, she wildly shakes up the place.

The tap-dancing brother team of John and Leo Manzari cut up with the star before being granted the stage for themselves and they bring down the house with a flourishing challenge routine. They're then joined by one of three younger acts who rotate performances. It was the teen sisters Devin and Julia Ruth's turn on Saturday night and they dazzled with athleticism and charm. Also in the rotation are Luke Spring, who Broadway audiences will remember from A CHRISTMAS STORY, and Dario Natarelli.

Watching the young talents wrap up their acts, Hines can be seen beaming like a proud poppa.

"That's our future," he reminds the audience. "That's our future."

With mentors like Maurice Hines around, the future looks very bright, indeed.


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