“The All Night Strut” – Black Theatre Troupe

This review aired on KBAQ September 8, 2008


Black Theatre Troupe, Playhouse on the Park
Phoenix, AZ

The Black Theatre Troupe has been moving around a lot during the last few seasons splitting its shows between the John Paul Theatre at Phoenix College and the Herberger Theater Center. It was confusing to know where their current show was playing. For this current season, Black Theatre Troupe has decided to settle down and present all its shows at the Playhouse on the Park at the Viad Tower in Phoenix.

For their season opener, the Troupe is staging an energetic and dynamic production of “The All Night Strut,” a musical revue filled with well known and popular tunes from the ‘30s and the ‘40s. The songs aren’t linked in any special way except for a common setting, the era’s popular nightclub, El Morocco. A talented quartet of performers presents the songs, including some period dances, with style and a nice rhythmic beat. The show is well staged by Thomas W. Jones II with great musical accompaniment from John Massaro’s fine six piece band. The resulting show is diverting and pleasant.

Just a short list of some of the two dozen hit tunes includes “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” “In the Mood,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “As Time Goes By.” Jones’ choreography includes jazz, be-bop, and swing among the jumpin’ and jivin’ routines executed artfully by Scott Holly, Yolanda London, Erahn Patton-Stinson, and Loren Smith.

Holly and Patton-Stinson are a wonderful performing team and give the show a professional sheen, while London uses her lusty vocal pipes to sing up a storm. Smith moves and sings well enough but isn’t quite in the same performing league as the other cast members.

Most of the numbers are ensemble pieces and there are few solos, so the entertainment comes fast and furious as the performance breezes by. Several of the soulful numbers include short forays by the cast into the audience. The small Playhouse brings the songs, dances, and action close, a winning plus. A nice Thom Gilseth-designed set re-creates the sophisticated elegance of the El Morocco. The songs come from several outstanding composers including Hoagy Carmichael, Frank Loesser, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Cab Calloway, plus George and Ira Gershwin.

Maybe the settled use of the intimate Playhouse will instill a secure serenity in Black Theatre Troupe productions this season. Their first offering, “The All Night Strut,” is one of the best recent shows to come from them. The musical revue continues through September 21. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or go online at www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Grade: C