Porchlight Music Theatre DUKE ELLINGTON’S SOPHISTICATED LADIES Review – Jazz Party

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The crowd is buzzing on opening night. The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is absolutely packed as these theatre goers wait to step inside the theatre. Looking at the stage we’re taken to the Golden Age of Jazz, with art deco accents and a portrait of The Duke himself hanging on the wall. We’re introduced to the band on stage as they begin to play - the bassist, the brass, the drummer, and the reeds. Then, out steps the man of the hour to take the place at the piano in lieu of Ellington himself, Jermaine Hall. SOPHISTICATED LADIES kicks off with a bang, and keeps the energy flowing the whole show.

Porchlight Music Theatre DUKE ELLINGTON’S SOPHISTICATED LADIES
(L to R) Joey Stone, Eustace J. Williams, Donterrio Johnson and Chuckie Benson

Porchlight Pays Homage to The Duke

SOPHISTICATED LADIES is a musical revue that has some story-telling elements, which at the same time keeps the focus on Duke Ellington’s music. We make our way through The Duke’s repertoire, smoothly moving from one song to the next. To put a little theatricality into the mix,  we do get some characters to add a story to the songs.

John makes eyes at Molly across the room during Everything But You.

Molly and Donica share their broken hearts in the combination song I Got It Bad/Mood Indigo.

 Lydia pours her heart out missing her love in Solitude.

And, Lorenzo gets romantic in Something To Live For, that has us all wishing for that special someone.

Ensemble Dancing Their Hearts Out

In addition to these leads of this musical revue, the ensemble also adds their dramatic flair. Dancing is in no short supply here. There’s tap dancing, swing dancing, and even some solo interpretive dance to slow things down a bit.

The Sophisticated Ladies ensemble dances to the smooth and primal beats of The Mooche. The Sophisticated Gentlemen ensemble also wows with their impressive dance skills showcased in their numbers.

When they all come together for the show stopper, It Don’t Mean a Thing, we feel like we stepped right into the glitz and glam of the jazz age. Dresses are sparkling. Suits are freshly pressed. The kickline is swingin’, and the music is coming to a crescendo. The entire ensemble gathers together —sophisticated ladies, gentlemen, and all— and takes up the entire stage. The energy is infectious as they dance.   It feels like we’re at one big celebratory party.

SOPHISTICATED LADIES is a great fit for those who love jazz and want to experience the breadth of Duke Ellington’s music— from the upbeat, to the soft and sultry. Even if you’re not a jazz lover, but still love theatrical productions, there’s enough theatrical bits in this performance to make this a fun night out.

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Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

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Cast:

Lydia Burke “The Danseuse”, Donterrio Johnson “The Jazzbo”, Molly Kral “The Soubrette”, Donica Lynn“The Chanteuse”, John Marshall Jr “The Hipster”, Lorenzo Rush Jr “The Raconteur”, Eustace J. Williams“The Danseur”, with Shantel Cribbs  Madison Piner Jenna Schoppe and Terri K. Woodall “Sophisticated Ladies” and Chuckie Benson Tristan Bruns Kaimana Neil and Joey Stone “Sophisticated Gentlemen” and Ariel Dorsey “swing/Sophisticated Lady.”

Production Team:

Brenda Didier and Florence Walker Harris , co-director and co-choreographer, Jermaine Hill, music director, Angela Weber Miller, scenic designer, Denise Karczewskin, lighting designer, Robert Hornbostelm , sound designer, Caitlin McCarthy, properties designer, Theresa Ham, costume designer, Kevin Barthel , wig designer Matthew McMullen , stage manager,  Jackie Robinson , assistant stage manager, Mary Zanger, assistant stage manager, Joaquin Gomez, assistant stage, Sean Michael Mohler, assistant stage manager, Austin Kopsa, assistant stage manager swing, Samantha Treible, wardrobe supervisor, Rachel West, master electrician, Matthew Chase, sound design assistant, Jamie Davis, soundboard engineer and Catherine Allen, production manager.

When:

Thru March 6, 2020

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3:30 and 8 p.m. and
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Weekday matinees:
Thursday, Feb. 6 and 13 at 1:30 p.m.
and added performances
Tuesday, March 3 – Thursday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m.

Where

The Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago

Tickets

$39+

For full price tickets and ticket availability visit Porchlight Music Theatre website or by calling 773.777.9884

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

Photos by Michael Courier

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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