Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life

Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life

Maurice Hines in Arena Stage’s Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life. Photo credit: Teresa Wood

When I was 7 years old, I saw an episode of Sesame Street, where two brothers used choreography in the foreground and background to demonstrate the difference between near and far. I was completely mesmerized. That’s when I fell in love with tap dancing and with the Hines brothers. To have the opportunity to see Maurice Hines himself in Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life at Arena Stage, therefore, was the fulfillment of a childhood dream and I had extremely high expectations. I mean, here was one-half of the partnership that so creatively taught me the difference between things that were close and further away, using nothing but his feet, rhythm and charisma. How could it be anything less than great? To be honest, though, it was not great. It was phenomenal.

Less a traditional theatrical format and more a tribute to some of the greatest talents in American music history, Tappin’ Thru Life reminded me of a multi-mode art installation, the likes of which are rarely seen on stage anywhere. Although I was born and raised in the era of disco and big hair bands, to see a performance that so richly entertained based purely on the bare talents of a nine-piece jazz orchestra playing standards, two sets of tap dancing brothers, and a 70-year old legendary performer without any pyrotechnics, technological enhancement, or schmaltzy glitz was a rare gift.

Although less well-known, perhaps, than his younger brother Gregory (who died of liver cancer in 2003), Maurice Hines is still a performing force not to be trifled with. Continue reading

Entertainment, Music, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Sophisticated Ladies

Wynnona Smith, Janine DiVita, Maurice Hines, Marva Hicks and Karla Mosley in the Arena Stage production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies (Photo by Scott Suchman)

As of last Thursday night, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies has become the best selling show in Arena Stage’s history (that’s a record-breaker over six decades of distinguished theater). It’s been extended through June 6 at the Lincoln Theatre, and rightly so. Go see it.

(I could just leave it at that, but of course I won’t!)

On my way walking the few blocks from my house to the Lincoln Theatre, I made a point of passing the house where Duke Ellington lived on 13th Street. There’s now a placard on the fence outside proudly proclaiming that fact. It gave me a bit of a thrill, walking up that street, past the Whitelaw, and then over to the storied Lincoln Theatre, thinking of the young Duke maybe doing the same. I’ve always had a crush on Ellington since I was a little girl listening to my dad’s jazz records, so I had a special feeling going to this performance – and it did not disappoint.

Glitz, glamour, class and sass. An excess of talented singers and dancers. The Duke’s scintillating music performed by a slamming onstage orchestra. And a legend of tap graciously highlighting two extraordinary newcomers. That’s what you’ll get with Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies. Continue reading