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BWW Review: Tap Legend Hines Sings and Tells His Story

Tappin' Thru Life: An Evening with Maurice Hines

Featuring The Manzari Brothers

Special guest Grace Cannady, Choreography by Sean Fielder/The Boston Tap Company

Conceived and Performed by Maurice Hines, Select Choreography by John and Leo Manzari, Directed by David Dower; Music Director and Drums, Sherrie Maricle; Lighting Design, Russell H. Champa; Set Design, Alexander V. Nichols; Stage Manager, Debra A. Acquavella

Berklee College of Music Select Big Band: Lin Biviano, Faculty Conductor; Ron Savage, Chair, Ensemble Department; Matt Byron, Michael Moise, Aaron Drescher, Hannah Ureste, Julian Dessler, Ryan Stanbury, Andrew Koskela, Craig Robbins, Will Zimmer, Yi Chun Teng, Clay Lyons, Josh Plotner, Barclay Moffitt, Yasuhisa Inoue, Thomas Harris; Artistic Consultant, Charles Randolph Wright

Performances through May 19, presented by ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage at Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-824-8400 or

At the opening night performance of Tappin' Thru Life: An Evening with Maurice Hines, the Cutler Majestic Theatre was an intimate room filled with all kinds of love - brotherly love, love of tap dance, and love of great music. Following a fast and crisp instrumental welcome by the impressive Berklee College of Music Select Big Band, under Music Director and drummer Sherrie Maricle, Hines made his entrance to a swell of applause in recognition of his long and stellar career on stage and screen.

Nattily dressed in a black jacket, cream-colored trousers, and a black and white chevron-striped tie to match his shoes, the ever-present smile on Hines' face lit up the room with more wattage than the deco stage lighting design. As the genial guide through his sixty-plus years in show business, he paid tribute to his late brother Gregory and the many singers who inspired them both throughout their performing lives. The chronicle of A-listers he has worked with is voluminous, but some deserved attention in song on the program, starting with Joe Williams. Curiously, the song-and-dance man's show features much more of the former than the latter, although Hines is never static and looks like he's dancing even when he's standing at the microphone.

Despite his own considerable star power, Hines had stars in his eyes when naming his three idols: Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lena Horne. He pulled bass player Matt Byron from his perch to accompany him downstage on Horne's signature "Honeysuckle Rose," letting the young musician strut his nimble fingers on a solo break. Hines told about performing in Las Vegas with Fitzgerald and Gregory when their friend Sammy Davis, Jr., introduced the Hines brothers to a pair of fellow rat packers by the names of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. It was a great segue into a quartet of Old Blue Eyes' tuners, including "Come Fly With Me," which showed that Hines learned a thing or two about vocal phrasing from the master. A mellow "All the Way," followed by a jazzy, finger-snapping "I've Got You Under My Skin," and a whoop-inducing "Luck Be a Lady" finished the segment.

While Hines went offstage to change clothes, the band honored Duke Ellington ("I'm Gonna Go Fishin'"), featuring the most amazing kickass drum solo by Maricle that seemed to awe even the head-bopping Berklee kids. The star made an eye-popping return in an Armani zebra stripe jacket and settled onto a stool to lovingly talk about his parents. An overhead screen showing them as a young couple was an appropriate prop for "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," a very sweet rendition with piano accompaniment by Michael Moise.

Remaining in the storytelling mode, Hines told how he and his brother became models for a store catalogue before they had even started dancing. One slide showed them modeling, followed by an early publicity shot of Gregory and Maurice in top hat, white tie, and tails. In the most poignant moment of the evening, Hines danced the first soft shoe number the boys learned, alongside an empty spotlight metaphorically representing his little brother. Although Maurice's technique and posture are different than Greg's singular style, the resemblance stood out in that one dance.

During an audition for a 2010 revival of Sophisticated Ladies at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, Hines discovered an aspiring pair of tap-dancing brothers, John and Leo Manzari. The twenty- and eighteen-year old siblings got their turn in the spotlight to show off their intriguing choreography and rapid feet, Hines' homage to paying it forward and mentoring young artists. The audience barely had a chance to catch its collective breath before an eleven-year old local spitfire by the name of Grace Cannady confidently took the stage to strut her stuff and indicate that she was not so impressed by any challenge laid down by the Manzaris. Cannady's routine was choreographed by Boston's own Sean Fielder, founder of The Boston Tap Company.

After taking great pleasure in the talents of the youth, Hines went back a few decades to sing a pair of Nat King Cole songs ("It's Only a Paper Moon," "L.O.V.E"). Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If You Ain't Got That Swing)" served as a rousing finale, including Hines' longest tap interlude of the night. Apparently, he subscribes to the show business adage, "Always leave 'em wanting more," as the crowd went wild with his remarkable footwork. He dedicated his encore to the audience and the entire City of Boston: "Too Marvelous for Words." The same might be said of the delightful Maurice Hines.

Photo credit: Scott Suchman (Maurice Hines)

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