Carolyn Griffin is always looking for something different. As producing artistic director of MetroStage, she said, “More often than not I choose things that I’ve never seen.”
And so it is with “The All Night Strut!” Griffin has been watching it unfold the past two weeks as the director, Thomas W. Jones II, rehearses with the four actors for the upcoming show. In all the cast will deliver 20 songs for this musical review which starts on Feb. 10. They are songs from the '30s and '40s, songs like “Ain’t Misbehaving,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Minnie the Moocher.” They are the classics written by such legendary song writers as Hoagy Carmichael, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, George and Ira Gershwin, Fats Waller and others.
“I chose it because it’s upbeat and has great music,” Griffin said. “Our audience loves great music.”
When Jones started casting for his new performance of “The All Night Strut!” he wanted to find the best singers he could find. As such, he didn’t want to be concerned about keeping with the original cast that had one black couple and one white couple.
“Once we freed ourselves from that [restriction], it made it easier,” Jones said, and proceeded to hire on William Hubbard, Yvette Spears, Darryl Jovan and Lori Anne Williams, all accomplished African American jazz singers from the Washington, D.C. area.
“I think we wanted to do this music with a jazz context. This show is more like a group of traditional jazz group singers,” Jones said.
Although he lives in Atlanta, he has worked up here with Griffin before. What does he like about working at MetroStage?
“Just the freedom to approach work the way we want to approach it; being able to think outside the box,” he said.
SPEARS IS EXCITED about the show, “I thought it was wonderful how Tom did the placement.”
While other versions of this show just have the four singing and dancing, Spears said, “Tom created the twist and made the story line. He gave it energy and Tom’s thing — lindy hopping fits perfectly.”
"Tom is so amazing — he’s a talented writer" and he also directed “Three Sistahs” and “Harlem Rose,” Griffin said.
Jovan said the dancing part was challenging, but Hubbard said, “I do it all. I feel like I’ll try anything.”
Jones is right in there with them. “Some songs are easier, some are more intricate,” Jones said.
“Although we’re not dancers per se, we are entertainers and can feel the beat,” Spears said.
“Part of the fun is to see four people do it all, trying to reflect the period,” Jones said.
Howard Kurtz, costume designer, will help create that feel with period costumes to give a sense of the '20s, '30s and '40s.
While these songs are based in the '30s and '40s, Jones and the actors agree that they say a lot about what’s going on in our country right now with the war and all.
“This feels identical to what we are going through now,” Spears said.
Jovan thinks that the music is cathartic, and said, “You’ll forget what we’re going through in the world right now.”
He also thinks that the show will bridge the gap between generations and cultures; Griffin agrees and said, “You’ll find a real generational cross.”