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Review: 'Club Morocco' a swingin' good time
This review of "Club Morocco," which opened Friday at Lawrence Community Theatre, comes from Lawrence writer Liza Pehrson:
Lawrence Community Theatre opens its new season with the swingin’ hot “Club Morocco,” which uses the hits of great big-band leaders such as Glen Miller, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey, to narrate a 1940s-era, film-noir spoof. The story revolves around Frank McCann, a private investigator with a sordid history, who comes back to settle a score with club owner, Torch Tangier.
In a fun and entertaining change of pace, this show focuses to a great extent on audience participation. Throughout the show, the cast encourages people in the seats to come down and dance to songs like “Jump, Jive and Wail,” “In The Mood” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Dennis Tyner plays the gritty McCann with a style reminiscent of the great detectives of the silver screen. His cool presence and easy manner help the audience believe they are spectators in a night club, sipping dry martinis and watching the drama of the regulars unfold before their eyes.
The club’s ingénue is the sweet and sultry Nugget Rialto, brought to life by Amber Dickinson. She displays great character and charm, and her performance is highlighted by a stunning version of “Stormy Weather.” Dickinson is joined in performance by LCT veteran Amy Reinert, who plays the bold and sassy club headliner, Velvet St. Regis. Reinert’s strong stage presence is accented by her passion, turning in several great solo and ensemble performances.
A shining focal point of the show is Henry Mosely, who livens up the stage as the jive-talking band leader Chick Valentine. In his debut performance with LCT, Mosely captures the crowd with a rocking rendition of “Minnie the Moocher,” keeping them swaying and jiving until the very end.
Fellow newcomer Butch Wilkerson plays the band’s tenor (and jive-to-English translator) Bobby LaRue. Wilkerson and Mosely bring a fabulous energy to the stage, setting a great backdrop for the rest of the action. The Swing Street All Stars all but steal the show, performing with the cast swing-era hits like “String of Pearls,” “Under My Skin” and “One For the Road.” Headed up by musical director Mary Baker, their talent captures the attention of the crowd and builds a strong backbone for this engaging and comical show.
Choreographer Ivory Mazur creates several tremendous dance numbers using a solid cast of young dancers. Jared Martin, Muncel Jones, Joshua M. Cuffe, Mary Williams and Gabrielle Sangervasi swing and flip their way across the stage with aptitude and flair. The group tap number during “I Got Rhythm” is a particular favorite. Director Mary Doveton brings a great mix of new talent and gifted veterans to the stage, resulting in a fun and entertaining show (even if you don’t have the courage to get out and cut a rug). The exciting atmosphere, good music and sparkling costumes make for an enjoyable and memorable evening.
“Club Morocco” runs through Oct. 4. Visit www.theatrelawrence.com for more information.