Photograph by Edmond Kwong
The past recaptured: The cast of 'The All Night Strut!' swings into another era.
Strutting To the Oldies
The Tabard Theatre Company re-creates popular big-band tunes of the '30s and '40s in 'The All Night Strut!'
By Mike Connor
THE TABARD Theatre Company's production of The All Night Strut! is a cutesy, campy musical performance showcasing popular songs from the '30s and '40s. Originally conceived by Fran Charnas in the late '70s, the musical is essentially a '30s and '40s compilation album performed live. It's more of a nightclub than a theatrical show, except that it's all performed within the family-friendly confines of the Triton Hall Pavilion, a cozy little community theater in Santa Clara, and the bar there is just a prop.
While Tabard shows are "suitable and appropriate for the whole family," producer Cathy Spielberger Cassetta says this show is "geared for the older folks." When she asked the audience to raise their hands if they remembered the songs firsthand, more than a few did. It was a claim that none of the performers could make, though the liner notes are full of sugary-sweet personal associations with the music they were to perform. Absent a storyline or a meaningful set, it was the only context provided.
Fortunately, the lyrics were clear enough that the songs provided context for themselves, telling stories of swingin' good times and Depression-fueled hard times—but mostly swingin' good times. A spunky seven-piece band called the Strut Cats did its best to get the party started while the five singers strutted onstage dressed in period garb, suitcases in tow, singing "Chattanooga Choo Choo." With theatrics bordering on pantomime, they used cue cards to prompt us into singalongs, trying to reel us into some happy fantasia of zoot suits and jivin', with cameos by World War II-bound soldiers and Rosie the Riveter.
Tenor Kevin Cornelius stood out as a soloist, but all the performers fared better on the four- and five-part harmonies and ensemble skits, acting out saucily to "I Get Ideas" and sourly to "A Fine Romance"; swing dancing at "Tuxedo Junction" and tap-dancing to "Fascinatin' Rhythm." The choreography was never challenging, though the tall and lanky bass Mitchell Baker sometimes made it look like it was—all part of the charm here where disbelief is never quite suspended and half the fun is watching the smiles on the faces of the elder half of the audience.
"If we brought any of that magical, musical mood into you tonight," said bass Mitchell Baker, summing up the production's good intentions, "well that's just copasetic."
The All Night Strut! a Tabard Theatre Company production, plays Wednesday (Dec. 13) at 8pm, Thursday-Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through Dec. 16 at the Triton Museum Hall Pavilion, 1900 Don Ave., Santa Clara. Tickets are $22. (408.679.2330)
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