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Fast-paced ‘All Night Strut’ brings back ‘30s, ‘40s


By JULIE McHALE - Post Theater Critic

Nov. 15, 2018


   

From left are Kelley Faulkner, Brian Russell Carey, Katherine Thomas and Jonathan Spivey in “The All Night Strut!” The Milwaukee Repertory Theater musical will run through Jan. 13.
Photo by Michael Brosilow

MILWAUKEE - For starters, “All Night Strut” has a snappy, energized medley of music from the 1930s and ‘40s delivered by five talented musicians.

They use their voices and an array of musical instruments, including piano, drum, bass, guitar, violin, saxophone and trombone, with even a few blasts from a trumpet. Three men alternate between the instruments, which in itself was quite impressive.

The numbers were all rendered with skill and speedy pacing. It was quite amazing to watch them scooting around that stage without missing a beat and making the difficult look easy. Their timing was flawless.

I would have preferred to hear a few more ballads from that two-decade period, where there were many memorable ones. I also would have enjoyed hearing Nygel D. Robinson sing a few more solos because he has the richest voice. Not, however, to minimize the talent of the other four singers, who were all quite engaging.

A generous list of songs included such hits as “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” and “Java Jive,” all of which were performed with skill and spirit.

Some of the tunes from World War II included “White Cliffs of Dover,” “Rosie the Riveter,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer,” and the beautiful ballad “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

In the segment after the intermission, my favorites were “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “As Time Goes By” and, the closer, “Lullaby of Broadway.”

The script used the train metaphor as the ensemble traveled to different areas of the country where certain songs were featured.

Besides their singing and their orchestrations, there was also some lively dancing - tap and jitterbugging predominantly. Kelley Faulkner seemed the most comfortable with tap. When all three men took turns on the piano, it was amusing and I’m sure difficult to coordinate.

The three other performers included Brian Russell Carey, Jonathan Spivey and Katherine Thomas, whose sister, Bethany, just entertained us in “Songs for Nobodies.”

Conceived and originally choreographed by Fran Charnas, with musical arrangements by a variety of artists, this show was directed by JC Clementz with Dan Kazemi directing the music. The set design was eye-catching, thanks to Arnel V. Sancianco, and the women’s costumes, well-chosen by Jason Orlenko, were very true to the styles of the time.

The audience was attentive and responsive, with the older patrons probably experiencing nostalgia and the younger ones marveling at how much the style of music has changed in the past eight decades. But every era  makes its contributions to the history of American music and in all cases, the music reflects a given time frame.

If you’ve never visited the Stackner Cabaret, it’s known for its fascinating shows, which are often musical and always entertaining. The house is usually packed with appreciative fans.
 

AT A GLANCE

“All Night Strut” 

The musical jamboree runs through Jan. 13 at the Stackner Cabaret Theatre, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Call 414-224-9490 or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com.