Dames and cats alike were puttin’ on the ritz over the weekend for ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy,’ a rollicking, two-act musical revue of the 1940s big-band era, presented by Tabard Theatre Company and currently playing at the Theatre on San Pedro Square.
The name refers to not only to Benny Goodman’s song but also to the Savoy Ballroom, a popular dance venue that was located in Harlem from the 1920s to the 1950s. In contrast to most venues at that time, white and black Americans were welcomed and danced together in the ballroom. It was also hubbub for famed musicians. Many dance fads had their beginnings at the Savoy; the Flying Charleston, the Lindy Hop and the Stomp, to name just a few.
‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ opens up with the look and feel of a ballroom set in 1944. Backed by the 11-piece San Jose Jazz Orchestra, the 10 cast members not only sing and dance to the old tunes but also encourage the audience to get up and dance as well. They cover many favorites of the past, including songs from Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller.
There really is no fault with the cast and how they transform themselves into 1940s boogie-woogie characters. Their costumes hit the nail on the head. Each member of the cast has his or her own standout moment. Greg Goebel plays the band leader, occasionally joining the band with his trumpet. Michael Amaral fits the role of the crooner, reminiscent of a young Frank Sinatra. Paul Bolton’s duet with Lauren Post about the follies of watching your significant other grow old was hilarious. Diane Milo’s solo performance showcased her versatile voice. It might be a toss-up between who the diva of the evening was, either Juanita Harris or Tracy Perrilliat. Both are phenomenal singers who gave their all during their performances. Ben D’Angelo and Carol Lanoie clowned their way through a couple of comedy acts, with obviously terrible jokes that incited more groans than laughs, complete with badda-bings and duck calls. But the true show-stopper was James Creer’s flawless channeling of Cab Calloway in “Minnie the Moocher.” He had the moves as well as the voice.
This is the type of theater that just wants audiences to have fun. It’s for young and old alike. You can either remember the songs or be introduced to great music of the past. Besides, what play encourages the patrons to dance? And if you’re lucky, one of the performers may ask you to dance as well.
Stompin’ at The Savoy
Trough Oct. 30
Theatre on San Pedro Square,
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