All great shows need to have a perfect combination of romance, humor, warmth and great music. Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life has it all. From the first pound of the drums to the last bright notes played from his all feamale orchestra, Maurice Hines and company take the audience on a journey in words and music through his fascinating life.
Maurice Hines is not only a talented triple threat (acts/sings/ dances) performer, but he’s also led such an interesting life. This show is a brilliant fusion of stories, charmingly told by Maurice, along with the music that well accompanies his anecdotes. Maurice recounts everything from how he and brother Gregory began dancing together as children to working with their father in Hines, Hines & Dad and many other moments from his life and career. Maurice is a captivating performer whether his feet are flying faster than lightning, telling a hilarious story or breaking your heart with a tender, yet hopeful rendition of “Smile.” I have to salute him on his wonderful music choices. He sang many of my favorites including “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”. It was wonderful to see a show where the audience was so engaged and you could feel how much people were enjoying the evening. Whether he was giving a shout out to DC or having us sing along, Maurice Hines commanded the audience and we the audience happily followed him all night.
The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, the nine piece ensemble that performed with Maurice, is sensational. I’ve never really listened to much jazz music before, but I love it! It was so much fun to hear their riffs on songs that I know and love. I loved hearing them accompany Maurice and it was awesome to hear them play by themselves. I was also really impressed to see so many extremely talented women assembled in one group. Go, girl power! The musician who most impressed me was Amy Shook who completely killed it on acoustic bass. Wow, ladies, I think you’ve turned me into a jazz fan now!
As if seeing Maurice and listening to the Diva Orchestra wasn’t awesome enough there were also some other dancers in the show. John and Leo Manzari, who have previously performed with Maurice in Sophisticated Ladies, did an amazing job of displaying their tap dance skills. It’s almost difficult to process how fast their feet can move and the tricks that they can do. We were also treated to watching a young pair of local dancers Max and Sam Heimowitz. They were so adorable! It’s amazing to see boys so young have such a love for dancing and display such kill. Remember their names- you will see these boys again!
The technical elements of the show were all very well executed. Tobin Ost’s set design was very interesting. It was simple, yet striking and provided the perfect framework for performances. The costumes by T. Tyler Stumpf were also very nice. RJ has already said that he wants to copy Maurice’s look into his own wardrobe. Both, the lighting design by Michael Gilliam and the sound design by Carl Casella complimented the dancing and music. Darrell Maloney’s projections helped to completely transport the audience to many other moments in time.
Kudos, to director Jeff Calhoun, for helming a showcase not only for dance or jazz, but also a showcase for the story of a family. Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life is a feast for music lovers and for dance lovers too. The show succeeds in showcasing Maurice Hines as a talented performer, but it excels in touching your heart and creating a complete theatrical experience.
Kari’s Rating- 10
There is tap dancing in Maurice Hines is Tappin Thru Life, but you get a lot more as well. What Hines presents is an old school, rat pack lounge act from an era gone by. He does include great stories of his childhood, growing up and working with famous brother Gregory, but this would have been an amazing night even without the stories. Performers like this simply don’t exist anymore, and that’s a big shame. Numbers like “Nobody Loves Me (Every Day I Have the Blues)” and “Honeysuckle Rose” show off the Jazz chops of both Hines and The Diva Jazz Orchestra. His rendition of “Smile” will break your heart. His rendition of show tunes “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” and “Get Me to the Church on Time” will have your toes tapping. When “Too Marvelous for Words” ends the show, you’ll be sad that the show is over. I could spend all night listening to Maurice tell stories, sig his songs, tap, and love the audience.
The tap dancing is amazing in Tappin’ Thru Life. Not only is Maurice every bit as skilled as one would expect, he brings with him two different brother tap-dancing acts to share the stage with. John and Leo Manzari have an excellent chemistry with the man who discovered them, but also show off some amazing tap steps that I had never seen before. The second set of tap dancing brothers were the adorable Max and Sam Heimowitz who both definitely have bright futures in the field of tapping ahead of them.
The DIVA Jazz Orchestra was a great partner for Hines through the whole show. Various members had great solos throughout the whole night, but Amy Shook’s bass and Dr. Sherri Maricle really steal the songs that they are prominent in. Dr. Maricle is especially impressive in her wonderful drum solo during Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.”
This was an incredible night of entertaining, that I would go back to every night I possibly could.
( Arena Stage provided two complimentary media tickets for this review)