*At 70-years-old Maurice Hines hasn’t missed a step. Literally!
Ever the song and dance man, Hines, who has been entertaining audiences for more than 60 years, chronicles his career in the musical, Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life, currently playing through May 24, in the Bram Goldsmith Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts.
For 19 performances only, Hines, a celebrated dancer, choreographer, director and singer, takes the audience on a journey starting from his childhood. What a life!
The show is a tribute to his brother and dancer partner, Gregory Hines, who died in 2003 as well as their father. He also dedicates the show to his mother, Alma, who he describes as his rock.
Hines reportedly developed the show after reading an article on tap dance that didn’t mention his brother, Gregory. Hines said he wanted the chance to honor his brother and acknowledge his prowess as a tap dancer.
Throughout the show, Hines, a fabulous storyteller, intertwines personal stories about his life with the songs that accompany them.
He talks about how his mother and father met, how he and Gregory were adored as children, how they met and worked with some of their idols and one of the more emotional stories – how he and Gregory were discriminated against in Las Vegas. As the story goes, Maurice and Gregory were set to play a gig in Las Vegas with Tallulah Bankhead. However, Blacks were not allowed to stay on the strip, so the brothers stayed off the strip at the Moulin Rouge. One day Bankhead took the brothers to the strip to meet Pearl Bailey. There was a swimming pool at the hotel and the boys wanted to jump in the water. Apparently or allegedly the hotel’s management denied their request – much to the chagrin of Bankhead. However, the boys jumped in the pool, while the white folks jumped out. After the brothers were finished playing and swimming in the pool, management drained the pool.
Hines went on to talk about meeting Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and more.
Although Hines is best known for his tap dancing, he spends a large percentage of the show singing, which is fine, but, admittedly, a bit disappointing. It’s magical to watch his flying feet. Hines leaves most of the dancing to the amazing Manzari brothers (John and Leo) and 11-year-old tap sensation, Luke Spring.
The Manzari Brothers performed alongside Hines in Arena Stage’s production of Sophisticated Ladies.
Hines donned head to foot in black, began the show with the uptempo, I’ve Never Been In Love Before. From there he easily glided classics like, Every Day I Have The Blues, I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face, Love the One You’re With, Smile, Stormy Weather, Honeysuckle Rose, Get Me to the Church On Time, A Tisket, A Tasket, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Luck Be A Lady Tonight, Caravan, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, It Don’t Mean A Thing and Too Marvelous for Words.
Hines is backed by the rockin’ nine-piece, all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra, led by music director, drummer and Hines collaborator Sherrie Maricle and featuring Nedra Wheeler (acoustic bass), Karen Hammack (piano) Lori Stuntz (trombone), Carol Chalkin (baritone sax), Glenda Smith (lead trumpet), Scheila Gonzales (lead alto saxophone), Barbara Laronga (trumpet) and Sharon Hirata (tenor saxophone). The band is tight and the musicians, many of whom have featured solos, are exceptional.
Hines knows how to put on a show. It’s well-written, it’s interesting, it’s entertaining, it’s emotional, it’s comical and it’s visual – showing a number of vintage pictures of his family and many of the stars he and his brother shared a stage with.
The best part of the show is Hines. Once the show starts the fun never ends. He is a ball of musical/tapping energy. With enough personality to dole out to the entire audience, Hines charms his way through a 90-minute set, holding spectators in the palm of his hand. His charisma is palpable, his smile is infectious and his flair is enviable.
Hines comes from the old school way of performing – no bells and whistles – just straight talent. He delivers a solid performance that is engaging and showcases Hines enormous gift.
Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life, directed by Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun (Broadway’s Newsies and Grey Gardens) is a treat. It doesn’t get any better than this. It doesn’t get any better than Maurice Hines.
Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life is a co-production with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Arena Stage, Alliance Theatre and Cleveland Play House.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable) O (OK) and E (excellent), Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life gets an E (excellent).
Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life, Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica, LA; 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; 3 and 8 p.m., Sat; 2 and 7 p.m. Sun, through May 24; $70-$129; 310 746-4000 or www.thewallis.org.