Review: Luke Hickey Sounds the Alarm with A LITTLE OLD, A LITTLE NEW at Birdland

Luke Hickey officiates the wedding of Tap and Jazz

By: Nov. 17, 2021
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Review: Luke Hickey Sounds the Alarm with A LITTLE OLD, A LITTLE NEW at Birdland A cabaret act without one single note sung - how on Earth is that a "show"? I'll tell you how. The music created, with what some people wouldn't even consider instruments, is other-worldly in Luke Hickey's A Little Old, A Little New. The only words spoken during the all-too-short performance (although I don't know how these marvelous dancers could have gone much longer) were all about bringing back the relationship between Jazz and Tap, musician and dancer - the synergy between artists and instruments..... And not for nothing, in its rightful place: Birdland.

Preconceived notions be gone. Everything I had thought or questioned going in was turned upside down and/or handily disposed of. A "dance show" without seeing their feet?! Surely every person beyond the first row would miss all the action. It did not matter; I could hear every captivating tip, tap, scrape or slap of all three dancers.

Luke and his two costars, John Manzari and Elizabeth Burke, opened the show with a powerful combination of point/counterpoint tapping of the highest level and led us right into a most satisfying unison section, then rounded it all out with a full-on conversation among three sets of feet and three incredible musicians- Liya Grigoryan on piano, Mark Lewandowski on upright bass, and Charles Goold on drums. Moving forward, Luke executed an amazing athletic solo which started out a capella but was then joined by Liya. All I could think was "How can he keep this up?"

In a more traditional offering, "Fly Me to The Moon" gave each dancer their own moment to shine, and BOY did they. Eventually, Luke exited (to wipe himself down and get a drink, I can only hope), and then Elizabeth departed, leaving John to have a one on one "conversation" with Mark on bass. I have never seen a musician have such an eagle eye on his partner's feet. It was remarkable. As Elizabeth reentered, we were taken to church with some call and response between the two tappers. With an audience quite obviously full of other dancers, everyone became riveted and silent, watching Elizabeth and John's powerful connection; this was only realized when the silence had finally broken with a murmur and then roaring applause.

A most welcome trio of musicians entertained us sans dancers with what can only be labeled as "Good Jazz"- you know the good stuff when you hear it. When Elizabeth reentered, she and drummer, Charles Goold, had a rhythmic conversation that I dare say was akin to a marital tête-à-tête; if their back and forth was improvised, I would not have been surprised. They were truly in sync. This was also when I realized that it wasn't only the piano, the bass, the drums, the taps on three sets of toes, and the taps on three sets of heels that were the instruments. The floor itself became a willing participant in these incredibly vast and varied conversations of sound and rhythm and tempo. Review: Luke Hickey Sounds the Alarm with A LITTLE OLD, A LITTLE NEW at Birdland

From the Golden Age, we were gifted with a piece to "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" in which we experienced some old-fashioned dancing side by side, but not in a cookie-cutter chorus line: it was each dancer performing the same steps/making the same sounds but exuding their own personalities. It was a true crowd-pleaser. My favorite part was when they dug into some historically-inspired Step choreography and Elizabeth gave the best "stank face" I've seen in a while. Fortunately for the dancers and the musicians, this audience knew how to keep a beat and did so when we were invited to clap along. This could have been disastrous, but Luke knew his audience and trusted us with the reins.

The final number of the evening was set to (believe it or not) Kanye West's "Runaway". This is A Little Old, A Little New after all. With some delightfully practical entrances and exits, we were offered a smorgasbord of tinkling ivories, funky rhythms, solos, duets, until, finally, all six artists were in a grand concert of an uproarious unison work of art and entertainment.

When I asked Jim Caruso of Birdland about having this show back, he said he certainly plans on it. My suggestion to all of you reading is to buy your tickets as soon as you see them go on sale, for they will most assuredly sell out.

Look for other shows to see at the Birdland website HERE.

Visit Luke Hickey's website HERE.