All That Jazz! at Annapolis Shakespeare Company is an original musical revue of classic songs from old Broadway shows, in collaboration with Unified Jazz Ensemble. Conceived and directed by Sally Boyett and with choreography inspired by Bob Fosse’s work, it features wonderful singing and dancing by talented performers, making a fun contrast to the gloom of Hamlet, which Annapolis Shakespeare is also currently performing.
Unified Jazz Ensemble plays onstage, giving the music a gorgeous sound, with bandleader Mike Noonan on keyboard, James Fowler on bass, Todd Harrison on drums, and Bruce Swaim on saxophone. They have a wonderful rapport with the performers, complementing each other perfectly; in “Slap that Bass” Molly McCloskey taps in unison with Harrison’s intricate drumming. It’s a terrific blend of music and voice.
The performers (Christine Asero, Catherine Athenson, Sally Boyett, Sean Haynes, Enemy Jones, Molly McCloskey, and Connor O’May) all work extremely well together. The show kicks off to a roaring start with the whole cast in “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” followed by “All That Jazz.” “Steam Heat” starts with the performers sashaying forwards, bowler hats facing the audience, using the hats as part of the choreography through the song. “Too Darn Hot” cleverly brings the cast in one at a time, until they all join in. “Who Could Ask Anything More” ends the show beautifully, the cast showing their talents.
Some of the songs have them performing in smaller groups. “All I Care About Is Love” has Sean Haynes commanding the stage as the women circle around him in black and pink boas. “Cell Block Tango” ends the first part with a bang, the women dominating the stage, full of power and dark humor. “Big Spender,” the first song in the second part, also features the women, playing up the song’s fierceness while sitting in chairs. Connor O’May joins them for “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” fun and upbeat. O’May, Asero, and Boyett take center stage for “Slap that Bass,” with Molly McCloskey joining in with a high-energy tap.
The duets are fabulous as well. Christine Asero and Sally Boyett make a wonderful pair, giving wry humor to “Hooray for Love” and “Nowadays.” Haynes and Athenson are lovely in “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love), while Asero and O’May passionately sing “Let’s Misbehave” and “All of Me.” Haynes and Boyett gleam while singing “’S Wonderful.” O’May and Boyett give sweetness to “Little Jazz Bird.”
O’May gives full energy and zest to his solo numbers, getting the audience tapping along to “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Pennies from Heaven” to “Me and My Shadow” and “Blue Skies.” Boyett makes a sweet song out of “Skylark,” while powerfully conveying the misery of “Ten Cents a Dance,” and a heartfelt love in “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” Asero shines in “Cry Me A River,” filling the song with regret and pain, and gives “Stormy Weather” an aching tenderness, while “Love for Sale” rings with bitterness and experience. “Dream A Little Dream of Me” is rich with love. Enemy Jones sings “Ain’t Misbehavin” full of seductiveness, as she slinks from the staircase to the stage. Haynes plays “Mr. Cellophane” perfectly, hesitant at first, with small movements, before a powerful ending. Athenson fills the love songs “I’ve Got A Crush on You” and “Our Love is Here to Stay” with passion.
The set, designed by Salydon Boyken, is the same as Hamlet, with a spiral staircase on the left leading to a small balcony, and an archway at the bottom. On the right is a staircase with two landings, with an old-fashioned microphone at the top. The band performs in the back left. Chairs, canes, and bowler hats are brought in. The backdrop is a screen on which Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow throws up fun images, such as purple lights for “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and flames for “Steam Heat” and “Too Darn Hot.”
Lighting Designer Corey Goulden-Naitove uses light effects to help with the festive atmosphere. Soft blue light bathes the stage for “Blue Skies,” with shades of red for “Big Spender” and “Cell Block Tango.” Spotlights highlight the performers singing on the staircases and focus on those in center stage.
Sally Boyett also designed the costumes, evoking the old-time Broadway era with tuxedos for the men and black fringe dresses for the women in the first half, switching to different colored sparkly dresses for the second.
Audio Consultant Folger Ridout ensures that the singing and music complement each other, while Vocal Consultant Shouvik Mondle makes sure the lyrics are loud and clear from the performers. Sally Boyett does a fantastic job as Director and Choreographer, incorporating movement throughout the show. The big numbers, like “Cell Block Tango” and “Steam Heat,” are especially gorgeous to watch, but the duets and solos are also lovely. Many of the songs follow each other naturally, “Ain’t Misbehavin” coming after “Let’s Misbehave,” for instance–in some cases, the performers help create a link between the songs by their action. Only four performances remain, so don’t miss out on the fun!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
All That Jazz! plays Saturday and Sunday evenings through October 20, 2019, at Annapolis Shakespeare Company – 1804 West Street, Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-415-3513 or purchase them online.