If you are a dance lover, run — don’t walk or tap — to the Fulton Theatre, where “Sophisticated Ladies” will make your heart soar.
“Sophisticated Ladies” is a celebration of the music of Duke Ellington. Director Marc Robin has put the emphasis on dance and offers up a fabulous big band that captures the brilliant spirit of Ellington’s music.
A cast of dancers does amazing things on the stage, leaping, shimmying and tapping in a way I’ve never seen before.
They grace an elegant stage with pastel colors of pink and blue and a big band dressed in tuxedos.
You will be transported back to the elegance of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and early ’50s, when Ellington was writing jazz standards and swing music was sweeping the sophisticated dance clubs. You’ll go to Harlem and live the high life.
A big WOW for the dancers: Neville Braithwaite, Jake Corcoran, Carissa Gaughran, Greer Gisy, Louis James Jackson, Tyler Johnson-Campion, Jessica A. Lawyer, Janaye McAlpine, Allie Pizzo, Connor Schwantes and Shari Williams.
You amaze me.
The show boasts three choreographers. Robin is joined by Kenny Ingram and Mark Stewart. Add to that assistant choreographer Jaime Verazin.
And the dancers themselves were encouraged to help shape their moves.
It pays off big time. The different styles and ideas all swirl together to bring energy, glamour and style to the dances.
Stories are being told on stage, and the dancers connect with each other through their bodies and their facial expressions.
The orchestra, led by A. Scott Williams, is magnificent. Eleven players bring the Ellington sound alive.
But here is the one problem I have with “Sophisticated Ladies.”
The orchestra is too loud for the solo singers, E. Faye Butler and Felicia P. Fields, both of whom I had trouble hearing. It seemed they had to shout to be heard at times, and the nuances of some of the music was lost.
Where was sound designer Shannon Slaton?
Clearly, these ladies can sing. I wonder if a chorus (the dancers can sing quite well and do sing some solos) backing them up would have made the sound bigger.
When the singing did work, on the medley “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” and “Mood Indigo,” you could hear the potential. Butler and Fields sounded great together, especially when harmonizing. The songs brought on the goosebumps.
The third soloist, who also danced, is Jim Hogan, the host for the evening.
His voice and dancing moves are solid, but I wanted more charisma from his character.
The production values for this show are through the roof. The set, by Chuck S. Kading, is all glamour and elegance, with the color scheme continuing into Jeff Hendry’s wonderful costumes.
The lighting, by Jesse Klug, was highly effective, offering different kinds of moods as the opening notes of a song spilled across the stage
Anthony Lascoskie Jr. did a great job with the hair and wigs, which perfectly fit the glamour of the show.
This is clearly a dance show, and when the big band plays those striking notes and the dancers rev up, nothing else matters.¶