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Arena Stage Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life

By • Nov 22nd, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Washington DC
Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life
Arena Stage: (Info) (Web)
Arena Stage-Kreeger, Washington DC
Through December 29th
95 minutes, without intermission
$50-$99 (various discounts available)
Reviewed November 21st, 2013

Not only is Maurice Hines tappin’ thru life at the Arena Stage. He’s also talkin’ and singin’.

And he’s 69 years old — a svelte and supple senior with snake hips and even snake shoulders. He brings the theater to vibrant life with his sunburst smile, his ingratiating “let me entertain you” manner and his phenomenal energy.

Hines’ autobiographical revue is big on nostalgia. The talkin’ and singin’ and tappin’ hark back to the 1940s — when Hines’ parents met and married. A collage of 14 on-stage screens displays a changing array of heirloom photographs. They lead us through a life of discipline and triumph. 

Toward the end of the 95-minute show, there’s a segue into the present and future. Hines brings on some local tap dance talent: the dazzling and innovative Manzani brothers, John (21) and Leo (18). And then along come two promising middle-schoolers, Max and Sam Heimowitz.

These two pairs of young brothers evoke a certain poignancy. Hines and his brother Gregory were a performing duo, starting when they were about the same age as Max and Sam. Gregory died 10 years ago of liver cancer. Many of the upstage photo projections feature Maurice and Gregory in snappy costumes. The affectionate tribute evokes both sorrow and celebration.

For comic effect, Hines displays alarm and dismay at a younger generation that masters tradition and but then goes on to new heights. But — naw — dismissive gestures aside, it is clear that Hines is glad to showcase evidence that his beloved art continues on in lively new directions.

Mostly, however, Hines’ beloved art consists in Vegas-style cabaret patter and vocal stylings. The repertoire is a collection of oldies, including “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Come Fly With Me” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” 

The music is immeasurably enhanced by the nine-member all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra. This brassy virtuoso ensemble is great. The leader is a drummer, Dr. Sherrie Maricle. Her solo riff as an astounding display of blurring sticks and flying hands. The show blasts off with a medley of big band standards. This exciting overture lets know that we’re in for a good time.

Hines’ cabaret patter is heavy on name-dropping. The names are accompanied by anecdotes or at least comments. The celebrity list includes — let’s see — Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, Tallulah Bankhead, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., . . . and more. Many more.

Sometimes the reminiscences amount to a dusty and faded scrapbook. At other times the memories are powerful. When the Hines brothers first played Las Vegas in 1955, the strip was the sort of “whites only” enterprise characteristic of latitudes far to the south. Off by itself was the Moulin Rouge hotel and casino, which pioneered integration. 

Hines tells of an incident involving Bankhead (white) and Bailey (black). Bankhead insisted that Bailey join her in her Vegas hotel’s swimming pool. The white patrons got out of the pool. When Bailey climbed out of the water, the pool was drained. On the projection screens are photos of segregation relics: “Whites Only,” “Colored Waiting Room,” etc. etc.

“We’ve come a long way,” Hines marvels. “A black man in the white house and the Supreme Court overturns DOMA.” This latter new landmark queues an old song: “Get Me To the Church on Time.”

Even a downbeat moment triggers an upbeat song. Which probably explains how, after all these years, Maurice Hines’ goes on “Tappin’ Thru Life.”

Photo Gallery

Maurice Hines Maurice Hines, with members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra
Maurice Hines
Maurice Hines, with members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra
Max Heimowitz, John Manzari, Maurice Hines, Leo Manzari and Sam Heimowitz, with members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra Maurice Hines
Max Heimowitz, John Manzari, Maurice Hines, Leo Manzari and Sam Heimowitz, with members of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra
Maurice Hines
John and Leo Manzari Maurice Hines
John and Leo Manzari
Maurice Hines
Maurice Hines Maurice Hines
Maurice Hines
Maurice Hines

Photos by Teresa Wood

Cast

  • Performers: Maurice Hines, John Manzari, Leo Manzari, Max Heimowitz, Sam Heimowitz

The Diva Jazz Orchestra

  • Drummer: Dr. Sherrie Maricle
  • Acoustic Bass: Amy Shook
  • Piano: Janelle Gill
  • Trombone: Jennifer Krupa
  • Trumpet: Jami Dauber
  • Lead Trumpet: Liesl Whitaker
  • Lead Alto Saxophone: Sharel Cassity
  • Tenor Saxophone: Camille Thruman
  • Baritone Saxophone: Leigh Pilzer

For This Production

  • Director: Jeff Calhoun
  • Music Director: Dr. Sherrie Maricle
  • Set Designer: Tobin Ost
  • Lighting Designer: Michael Gilliam
  • Sound Designer: Carl Casella
  • Projection designer: Darrel Maloney
  • Assistant Director: Patti D’Beck
  • Assistant Choreographers: John and Leo Manzari
  • Stage Manager: Kurt Hall
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Marne Anderson
  • Script Development and Dramaturg: David Snider
  • Casting Director: Dan Pruksarnukul
  • Production Manager: Marissa Larose
  • Technical Director: Scott Schreck
  • Properties Director: Chuck Fox
  • Master Electrician: Christopher V. Lewton
  • Sound Director: Timothy M. Thompson
  • Costume Director: Joseph P. Salasovich
  • Costume Shop Manager/Designer: T. Tyler Stumpf
  • Show Carpenter: Sean Malarkey
  • Props: Justin Titley
  • Light Board Operator: Paul Villalovoz
  • Assistant to the Lighting Designer: Nicki Rosecrans
  • Spot Operators: Curtis Jones, Kelsey Swanson
  • Sound Engineer: Roc Lee
  • Associate Projection Designer/ Programmer: Paul Leiber
  • Wardrobe Supervisor: Alice Hawfield
  • Youth Company Supervisor: Chet H. Craft
  • Musician Contractor: Rita Eggert
  • Musical Orchestrations and Preparation: Leigh Pilzer
  • Overhire Stitcher: Natalie M. Kurczewski
  • Overhire Painter: Mimi Li
  • Overhire Carpenters: William Klemt, George Page, Dan Peterson, Cathryn Salisbury-Valerien

Disclaimer: Arena Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/9825.

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