Theater Review: THE ALL NIGHT STRUT (L.A.: North Hollywood)

by Tony Frankel on April 16, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

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“How do you review The All Night Strut?” my theatre companion asked as we left The Colony Theatre. Well, you don’t. This short Cabaret-style evening of songs (culled from the Swinging Years) has no plot, no skits, no set changes, no characters, and no reality – it’s a superficial stab at recreating the feel of that era – which means it is un-reviewable. The songs are noticeable for lifting America’s spirits in hard times, but like a cruise ship act that lulls us into a somnambulistic state of reminiscence, all we can hope for is bandstand-like performances and jitterbugging before we head back to our stateroom.

all night strutThe astounding musical director Dean Mora, who pounds the piano with nary a scrap of sheet music, goes on a “coffee break,” prompting the cast into “Java Jive” as they pass around the pilfered mug from Mora. “Contrived” doesn’t begin to express silly segues such as this, presented on a multi-tiered set that looks like it could have been drawn by M.C. Escher (set design by Stephen Gifford).

Only an avant-garde, radical director could make Fran Charnas’ collection of popular music anything more than cutesy-wootsey, even though selections such as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” offer a much needed somber tone to the proceedings. It’s akin to watching a late-night commercial for Time Life Books’ “Best of the Swingin’ Years,” except the songs are intact (the best number was the character driven “A Fine Romance.”) The “adorable” factor rides high even as director/choreographers Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel veer dangerously close to hitting the iceberg of “sickeningly sweet”: they guide their multi-talented – yet mostly non-distinctive – cast of four into a well-oiled machine of slick movement and vocal tributes (the exception of distinction being the great Jennifer Shelton, who blew us away in MTG’s One Touch of Venus – you simply cannot take your eyes off of this superstar). Still, the experience is like watching four lumps of sugar slowly melting into yesterday’s decaffeinated coffee.

all night strutSo what are you going to do? Subscription audiences (read: retirees) put up with the occasional West Coast Premiere in a season, so why not thank them with a shot of musical morphine? Clearly, The Colony Theatre knows what their audiences want, as season subscription sales are up. (You should have heard the rapturous “oohs” and “ahs” emanate from the audience when artistic director Barbara Beckley announced the septuagenarian favorite On Golden Pond as part of the next season.) Certainly, there are financial constraints that have forced the company to produce shows requiring a small ensemble, but many of the outings – especially the familiar fare – feel serviceable and safe. It certainly is fine for non-discerning folk, but I miss the vast amount of revolutionary work that was offered at their erstwhile residence on Riverside Drive.

tonyfrankel @

The All Night Strut
scheduled to close May 1 at time of publication
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