Through March 5|
SOPHISTICATED LADIES/MusicalFare Theatre/Daemen College
By Augustine Warner
In this season of dark, dank days and even darker nights, what’s better than color and flash, well done.
That’s why you should see “Sophisticated Ladies,” on the MusicalFare stage, the music of Duke Ellington.
This is a throwback show for MusicalFare, no narration, no restaging of events in the life of Edward Kennedy Ellington, just the legendary music and some really strong , well-rehearsed dancing from director and choreographer John Fredo.
This is a large cast show, with seven performers and a six member orchestra, led by George Caldwell who played in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
There’s also the endless flow of costumes from Kari Drozd, at least for the women, since the men are heavy on formal dress and occasional colorful suits.
Ellington’s song list varies a lot, reflecting the decades across which he worked and his orchestras played.
Some numbers you may not recognize and others you will, Zoe Scruggs and Annette Christian with “In A Sentimental Mood” or Dudney Joseph Jr. and Cecelia Barron with “Sophisticated Lady” or there is the lesser-known “Drop Me Off In Harlem,” with London Lee, Joseph, Barron and Ben Michael Moran.
There is, of course, a legendary Ellington number symbolic of the way Harlem and the whole of New York are tied together, with Christian performing Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.
This is a show to just sit back and enjoy, whether the singing and dancing or Caldwell’s crew, with numbers like “Ko-Ko” or “I’m Checking Out/Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me.”
Because of the way the show is set up as a revue, we also get single numbers, Like Katy Minor’s wonderful “Hit Me With A Hot Note And Watch Me Bounce” or Joseph’s “I’m Just A Lucky So-And-So.”
The Ladies offer “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” while the entire cast has songs like “Cotton Tail,” for the symbolic Cotton Club in Harlem, performing home of the best Black performers of the time who weren’t allowed in the audience, with the Mob ownership separating the races.
There isn’t a weak spot in the cast or in the orchestra.
That’s why “Sophisticated Ladies” offers a bright spot in the depths of winter and remember the open and the close the cast carries down the decades from Ellington, “It Don’t Mean A Thing” if it ain’t got that swing.
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