This concert show aims to channel the spirit of jazz master Fats Waller with world-class performers honouring a selection of his music in a stylish, contemporary, manner.
The band is The Shakes, five outstanding musicians, and the show is conceived by Michael Mwenso and Michela Marino Lerman. It’s the performances that are the attraction: there’s only the ghost of a story here – snatches of Waller’s life and times read from newspapers, letters and books. To be blunt, the fragments prove a distraction – you learn next to nothing new.
The talent on stage is remarkable, though. Vuyo Sotashe joins Mwenso on vocals, both oozing charisma and cool, making a magnificent duo and blissful sounds. The tap dancing moves by Marino Lerman and Joseph Wiggan set a new benchmark for me, their percussive feet truly integrated into the compositions. On a stage crowded with talent, their personalities shine.
The show has a special treat, too – an appearance from the legendary Lillias White. A Broadway stalwart with awards for roles in Dreamgirls and The Life (both having London revivals right now), White is the real deal. Her numbers – too few of course – are total value, showing a playful flirtatiousness with Squeeze Me and then giving goose bumps with a civil rights number, Black and Blue. It’s an honour to see a performer like White on stage and the chance to do so is not to be missed.
Until 15 April 2017
Photo by Darren Bell