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Production is a harmonious convergence

April 14, 2011|By James Petrillo
  • Actors, from left, Jayme Lake, Michael Dotson, Scotch Ellis Loring and Jennifer Shelton star in "The All Night Strut!" now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. (Photo by Michael Lamont)
Actors, from left, Jayme Lake, Michael Dotson, Scotch…

Legendary record producer Phil Spector used to be remembered for a recording technique called The Wall of Sound, a densely layered racket achieved with several musicians crammed into the studio. The Colony Theatre concludes its stellar season with “The All Night Strut,” a densely musical wall of songs entirely absent of the spoken word.

It’s an extremely simple tribute to the classic American songbook covering very specific years from the first Great Depression through the post-World-War-II boom. Four extremely gifted musical actors (Michael Dotson, Jayme Lake, Scotch Ellis Loring and Jennifer Shelton) cover every single last tune with wit, humor and sweetness. Each performer breathes life and back story into all the songs. They’re even called on to fill in for the lack of an orchestra, but I’ll get to that later.

Director/choreographers Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel describe the songs as emblematic of an electrifying time in American history. During the 1930s, the clubs of Harlem nurtured a rough-edged, energized dance music called Swing that quickly reached craze status. The dance was the perfect escape to help America through tough times, the melodies providing a satisfying emotional release from all the wartime separation and loss.


Meanwhile, the world of 2011 is mired in the midst of some of the same collective pain —earthquakes, tsunamis, meltdowns, revolutions, economic collapse, Charlie Sheen, and so on.

So what initially seems like a flimsy excuse to trot out a bunch of golden oldies for the Sunday matinee crowd — who voraciously devour big-band hits from the good old days — begins to have a cumulatively soothing effect over the two-hour running time. Songs like “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” touch our senses personally in a way no other art form can duplicate. These timeless melodies peel away the years and make you feel young again.

The chronological set list has a graceful blend of wartime storytelling and bittersweet lyrics. From “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Minnie the Moocher” all the way to “Lullaby of Broadway,” each selection evokes a nostalgic memory of a certain place and time.

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