“The All Night Strut” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ April 11, 2016


Mainstage Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

I love the jazzy and bluesy ‘30s and ‘40s music that enabled this country to thrive during the Depression, World War II, and the years that followed the War.  The wonderfully engaging Phoenix Theatre musical revue, “The All Night Strut” captures this period’s rich popular music and jiving dances as it takes audiences on an entertaining and marvelously produced journey.

Director/choreographer Michael Jenkinson stages the revue with suave elegance using a quartet of performers who sing with gusto as they bop with slick smoothness executing engaging tap routines and other period numbers that turn this charmer into a winner.

The show serves two different audiences.  For older theatergoers who grew up with this music, the show returns them to a time of warm memories.  For younger theatergoers who haven’t heard these tunes, the show opens up a historic period they have studied but never experienced.  This was a jumpin’ and jivin’ period when people disguised painful world events with carefree tunes loaded with lively lyrics, and danced exuberantly to keep people sane.

For those unfamiliar with the music, a few of the tunes include “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “A Fine Romance.”  The show was originally conceived by Fran Charnas and director Jenkinson contributed his own thoughtful changes.

The director summarizes this carefree era using an infectious musical gusto captured flawlessly by conductor Alan Ruch and his six-person band.  But the best laid plans of this innovative director would never work without the exemplary four person cast that dance and sing with engaging combustion.

Brittney Mack’s fiery humor and mockingly amusing control over her fellow performers adds comic genius to the show.  Her work in “Gimmie A Pigfoot & A Bottle of Beer” is a riot and she leads “Operator” to soaring heights.  Stylish Trisha Ditsworth works magic in a succession of stellar numbers, while Christopher George Patterson’s smooth singing and glidingly slithery dancing crafts wonderful moments throughout the show.  Lanky Toby Yatso sails around the stage with suave sophistication bringing stylish refinement to the show.  The singers are showcased in Douglas Clarke’s multi-level set with a variety of focal places that allow each number to look artful while colorful period finery completes the show’s luxuriant look.

The delightful “All Night Strut” will appeal to lovers of the period’s lusty songs and dances and by those who use the show to see how people relaxed during this stressful time.  “The All Night Strut” continues through May 1.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A

A sad loss last week when Theater Works’ executive director Daniel Shay died from cancer at age 63.  Schay ran the Peoria theater since 2012 after several years at Phoenix Theatre.  Schay.  His theater knowledge and expertise will be missed.