BWW Review: THE ALL NIGHT STRUT! Is Sensational at The Redhouse
Talk about a swingin' good time at The Redhouse Arts Center in Syracuse, New York! Impeccably directed by Bob Brown, the current production of the jukebox musical of The All Night Strut! features sensational performances by a talented cast, spot on lighting design by Marie Yokoyama, energetic music direction by Barry Blumenthal, and top-notch accompaniment featuring members of the local award-winning CNY Jazz orchestra.
The All Night Strut! was conceived and originally directed and choreographed by Fran Charnas and features various American music that was popular from the 1930s and 1940s. The musical also features musical arrangements by Tom Fitt, Gil Lieb, and Dick Schermesser with additional orchestrations by Corey Allen. Some Famous songs included in the show include "In the Mood," "I'll be Seeing You," "As Time Goes By," "Hit That Jive, Jack," "Ain't Misbehavin," "It Don't Mean a Thing" (If It Ain't Got That Swing), and so many more. The songs are used to explain how things were during the depression, World War II, and the immediate post war era. The songs come to life at a nightclub (scenic design is by Terry Martin) where several couples are choosing and listening to songs from the jukebox and they try to outdo each other's choices as the evening rolls on. Four performers energetically show off their dancing skills and killer vocals in an evening filled with classic songs from jazz, blues, and bebop genres.
This unique musical allows the cast to use their own names as the characters. Each cast member is introduced by name at the end of Act II in the number "It Don't Mean A Thing." The musical calls for one Soprano (Cathleen O'Brien Brown), one Alto (Ayana Major Bey), one Tenor (Richard Koons), and one Baritone (LaRon Grant). Director Bob Brown has assembled a sensational cast with a whole lot of chemistry. These performers are dressed to impress thanks to costume designer Donnie Williams. They all give breathtaking, spotlight-stealing performances, singing and often dance in unison, executing the detailed and energetic choreography by Stephan DeGhelder with ease.
Local favorite Cathleen O'Brien Brown's effortless and gorgeous soprano soars in many of the numbers. Her energy and spunk makes "In the Mood" quite intoxicating and her emotional and powerful rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You" is perfection. She delivers a commanding performance in "A Fine Romance" alongside Richard Koons. She always delivers a standout performance on area stages and this production once again demonstrates her stellar talent. Her confidence, vocal control, and energy make her a definite highlight of the production.
Ayana Major Bey dazzles in "Minnie the Moocher." She steals the show with her soulful and confident performance. Her most memorable moment is "Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" but her impressive vocal range, charm, and killer facial expressions make her performance standout in many of the numbers.
LaRon Grant shows off his impressive storytelling skills throughout the show. Grant's expressive and passionate performance in the number "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" is a definite highlight, but his smooth vocals shine throughout the show. LaRon Grant and Ayana Major Bey also show off some of the impressive flips and spins (choreographed by Stephan DeGhelder) in the number "In the Mood."
Richard Koons seems to steal the spotlight as soon as he hits his first note. His charm, vocals, and energy are perfection in numbers such as "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "Comin' in on a Wing and a Prayer" where his impressive tenor shines the most. This is an ensemble show but, I often found myself watching his expressive performance even in the group numbers. Koons vocals are effortless and breathtaking; a stellar performer indeed.
Music director Barry Blumenthal on piano conducts members of CNY Jazz on stage. They take on their role of "The Strutters" with intoxicating energy. Each instrumentalist has a solo moment in the jazzy and swinging tune "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar." There, each CNY Jazz member is introduced and has a chance to show off. The instrumentalists include Joe Carello on woodwinds, Jeff Stockham on trumpet, Bill Palange on trombone, Tom Brigandi on Bass, and Larry Luttinger on drums - all of whom brought down the house.
The excitement and energy that the cast and the musicians provide make this show a must-see at the Redhouse. The All Night Strut! may feature music of the 1930s and 1940s, but it is a musical for many generations. It will get your feet a tappin' and have you humming along to these catchy tunes.
Running time: Approximately ninety minutes with one fifteen-minute intermission.
The All Night Strut! runs through June 9, 2019 at the Redhouse Arts Center at 400 S. Salina Street, Syracuse, New York 13202. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at The Redhouse, call the box office at 315.362.2785 or click here. For information on CNY Jazz, click here.