“Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara” Review – Lounge Act Nostalgia

 

 

If you like lounge acts that veer to jazzy scat singing this musical is made for you. 

 

 

Steeped in nostalgia, “Louis & Keely ‘Live’ at the Sahara” recreates the life of Louis Prima in the years when he met, groomed for fame, and then married his much younger co-star whom he re-named Keely Smith. 

 

 

Those who knew the Louis and Keely live act in Las Vegas are fast aging out of the theater-going demographic.  For that reason alone this show is timely.  For the rest of us, this is an interesting piece of American musical and entertainment history that seems worth knowing. 

 

 

While the singing never quite knocks it out of the ballpark, it does hew closely to the Louis & Keely style and we do get to hear many tunes that were the airwaves of America in the 1950’s and 60’s and that endure as chapters in the updated American Songbook to be written.  Co-author Vanessa Claire Stewart playing Keely Smith first shows us her stuff by singing “Embraceable You”.  Anthony Crivello as Louis Prima sings “I’m Just a Gigolo” a few times, reminding you that you knew that song from the ether of your memory even if you couldn’t name it. 

 

 

Paul Perroni plays Frank Sinatra with veracity, truly getting Sinatra’s phrasing down as he sings.  The cast is rounded out by Erin Matthews, whose flexibility we get to marvel at quite literally when she plays a New Orleans stripper and throughout the play as she doffs wigs and wardrobes to help her switch from one female character to the other, mostly tryst material for Louis with the ever roaming eye. 

 

 

The book of this show is clearly the string on which the pearls of song after song are strung.  If you like songs like “That ‘Ol Black Magic” or “What is This Thing Called Love” and more of that ilk sung lounge act style absolutely do not miss this show.  Periodically one of the six-man band  (Dan Johnson, Jeremy Kahn, Colin Kupka, Bill Overton, Jon Paul, Michael Solomon) comes front stage to do a solo riff and you are always glad they did.

 

At the risk of a spoiler, do know that the absolutely best line and one you will likely safeguard in your memory banks with a smile is the very last line of the show.

 

Co-author, Director and Producer Taylor Hackford seems to have sunk his soul into this work as a labor of love that honors his near life-long fascination with the Louis & Keely sound.  Chicago is likely a pit stop for a Broadway run.  It’s a far cry from the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein but it would fit neatly into the Broadway of today.

 

One cautionary note—many of the Royal George Theater balcony seats have very poor sight lines and your better bet is to get a seat on the first floor. 

 

In a limited engagement at the Royal George Theater. Closes May 17th.

 

Royal George Theater

1641 North Halsted Street

Chicago

 

For tickets call 312 988 9000 or visit the Royal George Theatre website.  

 

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Photos:  

Charles Osgood Photography

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