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Sassy 'Strut' Swings to an Energetic Beat

January 22, 1999|JANA J. MONJI

If you think you were born in the wrong era musically and you long for Gershwin or Cab Calloway, Fran Charnas' "All Night Strut" at the International City Theatre is an exuberant tonic of toe-tapping joy.

Director-choreographer Lance Roberts gives energetic life and a sassy sense of humor to this musical revue of big-band and swing music. Charnas has packaged this so well and Roberts choreographed it so fluidly that connecting dialogue isn't necessary.

Bradley Kaye's set design replicates an Art Deco nightclub, complete with a live three-piece band (Darryl Archibald on piano, Richard Martinez on percussion and Leslie Baker on bass) and a sweet-voiced quartet (Joe Giuffre, Ron Christopher Jones, Alysa S. Lobo, Melanie Wingert) singing tight harmonies.

Lobo shines a bit brighter than her fellow singers in her emotive movements and facial expressions. All the singers are able soloists and move well in the first act's spiffy pinstriped suits and two-piece ensembles and in the second act's eloquent tuxes and evening gowns, by costume designer Sherry Linnell. Most of the songs are upbeat standards--"Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood," "Java Jive" and "Juke Box Saturday Night." Charnas does touch on the war with a peppy World War II medley and the Great Depression ("Brother Can You Spare a Dime"). Roberts also reminds that things weren't so innocent in those bygone years with tasteful references to drugs and sex.

*

* "All Night Strut," International City Theatre, Long Beach City College campus, Clark Street and Harvey Way, Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Feb. 21. $22. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

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