★★★★ | This Joint Is Jumpin’
London seems to have gone a bit tap dancing mad. What with “42nd Street” and “An American in Paris’ it seems that you can barely enter a theatre before someone starts toe tapping. That’s no bad thing either.
The studio theatre at The Other Palace at Victoria (The St James’ Theatre with an oddly chosen new name) is a perfect cabaret venue. It’s intimate, stylish and only lacks an evocative haze of cigarette smoke to make it feel sufficiently retro. This lively show is a tribute to Fats Waller and the joint definitely jumped more than a little with glasses and bottles rattling on the tables and feet spontaneously tapping in the audience. Tap dancing, a live band and lively banter make this a full on joyous show to see.
It’s not so much a musical but more a jazz and tap dancing gig. There are thin links that are entertaining, funny and occasionally moving but there’s no discernible plot to link it. As well as a tribute to Waller there’s a nod to black history which adds emotional wallop. The main draw here though is the performers. Broadway star Lilias White is a mesmerising powerhouse of a pocket rocket, belting out tunes with panache and making the hairs rise on whichever part you have that rise. The tap is frenetic and loud, the songs are raucous/melodic/blasting and the men are a sight to behold. Joseph Wiggan is notable as a tap supremo with jaw dropping moves and singers Michael Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe rock the roof off. There’s a cheeky pianist, an MC with attitude and a great backing band. It’s a tiny stage but somehow they managed to fit 11 performers on there.
Pour yourself a gin, sit back and let the music take you over. This might be retro jazz but there’s nothing dated or tired about this show.
This Joint Is Jumpin’ is playing at The Other Palace, until 15th April
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.