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Like its musical genre, 'Strut' revue can swing

October 24, 2008|F. Kathleen Foley | F. Kathleen Foley is a freelance writer.

Since "The All Night Strut!" debut in the late 1970s, Fran Charnas' revue of popular music from the swing era has become a favorite offering at theaters across the country. The International City Theatre in Long Beach, where "Strut" just opened, originally did a production back in 1999.

It's somewhat appropriate that "Jukebox Saturday Night" is one of the second-act numbers. Charnas' perennially produced show is, was, and will remain an entertainment machine. Just slip your money in the slot and you're guaranteed a satisfying selection.

Some would argue that the show is overdone. Fortunately, ICT's current production is proof of its enduring appeal.

But that's hardly surprising. Director-choreographer Lance Roberts has been affiliated with "Strut" for almost 30 years, first as a performer and later as a director. Roberts has been staging professional productions of the show for well over a decade. His experience is evident in this well-oiled, consummately professional offering, which features powerhouse performers and a live band that could pass muster in a high-cover nightclub.

That sparkling combo, which includes Leslie Baker on bass and Richard Martinez on drums, is spearheaded by pianist-conductor Gerald Sternbach, who also serves as musical director. A lively stage presence, Sternbach elicits blissful harmonies from his crack cast.

Interestingly, this show predates the boom era of the jukebox musical ("Jersey Boys," "Mamma Mia!"). Here, no overarching plot has been superimposed to justify the proceedings. With the exception of a snippet from FDR's "Day of Infamy" speech that leads into a World War II medley, there's no interstitial patter. The only framework is the music -- and that's all the structure that's required. The solid performers -- Rodrick Covington, Robert Moffat, Cassandra Murphy and Victoria Platt -- march on stage and start hammering out vintage hits, ranging from the 1924 Gershwin classic "Fascinatin' Rhythm" to the sexy "I Get Ideas" from 1951.

All four have ample opportunity to shine, but gamin soprano Murphy hits it out of the park with "I'll Be Seeing You," the Act I closer. And for those who think the music is just a bit creaky, take a new listen to the Depression-era "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" -- a song that, in these economically troubled times, rings so true that it may send chills down your fear-compressed spine.



'The All Night Strut!'

Where: International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays- Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 9.

Price: $35 to $45

Contact: (562) 436-4610.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

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