Sophisticated Ladies review: Energy and passion take the stage

Jack Crovitz, Staff Writer

Over the course of its one-and-a-half hour run time, Sophisticated Ladies creates an energetic, effervescent, and highly entertaining celebration of both Duke Ellington’s superb work and the diverse talents of the production’s cast and crew.

The jazz’s discordance produces a harmony of its own– its twanginess adds energy to the air, and the enormously talented performers make it the best executed production I have seen during my time at the school.

Sophisticated Ladies is an homage to musician and composer Duke Ellington, a giant of the Harlem Renaissance. His unique flavor and style is clear in every song, though the school’s company adds an individual twist to every performance.

At first, the show’s diverse themes and stories seem nearly impossible to reconcile. It includes a melancholy farmer singing about unrequited love while sweeping the floor, a ‘20s flapper teasing her companion, and even a skat ode to the “swing” of jazz music.

Somehow, the talented cast and crew of Sophisticated Ladies make it all work. The show’s most defining feature is the way it melds its diverse elements into one unique performance. The music never stops. The band is always jamming out on stage beside the performers. The uninterrupted music make the production feel less like a collection of performances and more like a single show accentuated by different melodies and dance routines. This cohesion is accomplished in large part due to the incredible work of the stage and lighting crew, who change the theme and emotion so subtly and swiftly that you don’t notice the transition until the next performance starts, such as when the joyful, green-themed skat song “Bli-Blip” flows into “Take the A Train,” a slower ode to Harlem.

The entire production is immensely impressive; it’s just about impossible to be bored. Certain performances are especially memorable and compelling. For example, Gibby Thomas’ (12) soaring alto punctuates all the numbers she performs in, especially “Love You Madly” and “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Mikayla Benson (10) and Ben Rosenbaum (12) sing a moving and highly entertaining performance of “Satin Doll / Just Squeeze Me,” although all the songs they participate in are just as noteworthy. Amelia Feiner (11) performs a passionate and lively rendition of “Hit Me With A Hot Note,” once again adding more energy and emotion to the show.

The sets and music, for example the taxi cabs in “I’m Just a Lucky So & So” make Sophisticated Ladies perhaps the most unique performance to ever grace Gross Theater. Other particularly striking acts include those by the barbershop choir, made up of entirely Horace Mann faculty, and the energetic lines of skat (“Bli-blip Varthy Flam flam flam Hipideedleada Baaaaaaaaaaimp!”) that are scattered throughout the show.

While, Sophisticated Ladies does not have a single plotline, it certainly tells a story of love, ambition, and undiluted joy. The performance is storytelling at its finest– the dances are art in three dimensions, and the voices resonate throughout the theatre for two entire acts. I highly recommend attending the upcoming performances, both tonight and tomorrow at 7:30. Sophisticated Ladies is a production that will resonate with your heart’s jazziest melodies.