By Manning Harris

The Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s production of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies,” running through January 19, is a terrific entertainment that for sheer razzle-dazzle will probably not be matched in Atlanta this year.

You like tap dancing?  You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven as the Lyric trots out the most talented cast of tap dancers I’ve ever seen in person.  In fact, I haven’t seen such tappers since I saw Savion Glover open for Barbra Streisand’s Millennium Concert in Las Vegas on December 31, 1999.

That’s pretty heady company.

Where did the Lyric find these attractive young people?  You’ll have to ask Stage and Music Director Brandt Blocker, who conducts an explosive, brassy onstage orchestra.  Or perhaps Choreographer Karen Hebert can tell you; she gets my vote as Best Choreography of the year and we’re not out of January yet!

Then there are the songs.  This legend of American music, Duke Ellington, died in 1974 and just missed seeing a hit Broadway show with his great songs.  “Sophisticated Ladies” opened in 1981 to rapturous reviews and eight Tony nominations.

But you can see it.  And I’d get tickets now because last weekend was a sellout.  Such songs!  “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Solitude,” “Something to Live For,” “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Mood Indigo,” and many others.  Over 25 songs with music by Ellington and lyrics by various lyricists, most prominently Billy Strayhorn; and they all “have that swing.”

“Sophisticated Ladies” is a musical revue; if it’s heavy plot you want, this is not your show.  But if you’re looking for supreme showbiz panache, snappy costumes (Lindsey G. Paris), fancy dancing, excellent singing, and exuberant theatricality, this is your ticket.  Bobby Johnston is probably the best sound designer in Atlanta; and André C. Allen’s lighting is excellent.

It comes down to the ladies and gentlemen in the company.  Here they are:  Cassandra Alvarado, Reverie Mott Berger, Aaron Carter, Priscilla Curtis, George Deavours, Fenner Eaddy, Zack Everhart, Bonnie Harris, Chauncey Jenkins, Jewel Lucien, Tre McClendon, Jevares C. Myrick, J. Koby Parker, Michael Persson, Becca Potter, Krystle Simmons, Carrie Strothers, Kayce Grogan-Wallace, and Laura Wright.

The range of experience and expertise in this young cast, for both singing and dancing, is quite extraordinary.  Artistic director Brandt Blocker must be some sort of wizard to have found these people.  The energy and power of the male dancers, I must say, is especially impressive.  Not that the women are not also magnificent.

See this show:  It’s a hot time in the old town tonight—as they say.

For tickets and information, visit atlantalyrictheatre.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.