By Walter Rutledge
Maurice Hines presents Tappin Thru Life, at the New World Stages (340 West 50th Street), an entertaining mix of song, and dance peppered with Hines winning blend of tongue in cheek comedic realism. The evening chronicled his career in show business, which spans over six decades (beginning at age five). Septuagenarian (plus two) Hines charmed and cajoled the audience with unabashed panache, creating a clap along good time from beginning to end. Through a series of autobiographical anecdotes accompanied by song, dance and a mosaic/collage of multiple projected images Hines reveals a life spent “walkin the walk” or in Hines case “tappin thru life”.
Hines was aided in this endeavor by his all female band and three young tap dancers. The Diva Orchestra under the direction of drummer Sherrie Maricle performed a musical treasure trove of American standards. The nine-piece ensemble was attractively dispersed on three levels (all that was missing was a Ukulele playing Marilyn Monroe). Ellington’s instrumental classic Caravans gave the Divas a chance to show off their music chops while reminiscing the big band era.
A trio of young tap dancers, Dario Natarelli and John and Leo Manzari joined the on-stage merriment. Billed as the Manzari Brothers, John and Leo provided the ideal foil for Hines. This is the third Hines production featuring the brothers, and their showmanship and artistic growth was clear.
At times the Manzari Brothers channeled the camaraderie of the Hines brothers. In fact, much of the show revolves the Hines family dynamic, especially his relationship with brother Gregory. Starting with their first “gig” as child models for Klein’s 14th Street department store through their last performance together in The Cotton Club movie Hines takes us on an incredible journey marked by both personal highs and lows.
The Hines brothers, who evolved into Hines Hines and Dad with the addition of their father drummer Maurice Hines Sr., performed through the turbulent Jim Crow 1950 and revolutionary 1960’s. The family navigated racism, and segregated performance venues in Las Vegas; and reached a national audience through numerous appearances on the Johnny Carson Show. Hines shares his experiences during this “golden age” encountering such showbiz luminaries as Pearl Baily, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and Chita Rivera (who was in attendance).
For anyone else it would have been shameless name-dropping, but for Hines it was just part of an illustrious career spent tappin thru life. This stellar production run through March 13th, tickets can be purchased at the box office and at telecharge.com.