This Joint Is Jumpin’
The Other Palace, London
It’s the end of a long day. You feel more than ready to go home and crawl into bed when a friend suggests you go to a club instead. Despite your reluctance you agree, and end up having an absolutely cracking night. This is pretty much how I felt after seeing This Joint is Jumpin’. In the convivial basement studio of the St James theatre a group of New Yorkers are holding a ‘rent party’ in Harlem, to which the international cast is invited to bring its own booze, dance up a storm and get high on the songs of Fats Waller. At least that’s the idea of producer Hoagy Carmichael (Jr). Not bad as ideas go. An even better idea was to employ a real gigging band of first-rate jazzers, the Shakes, to get the party started. Frenchman Mathis Picard’s piano flows as freely as moonshine at a prohibition era speakeasy, while the sax of Londoner Ruben Fox is as cunningly playful as his name suggests.
The ebullient Desiree Burch (pictured) acts as host/emcee, introducing a succession of uniformally excellent vocalists, each of whom brings something different to the party, showcasing the universality of Waller’s music. Vuvo Sotashe looks like Al Green and sings like Al Jarreau – he is the perfect foil for the more muscular interpretations of Waller’s music by Michael Mwenso. However, even such fine singers as these have little choice but to acquiesce in the presence of Broadway legend Lilias White, who blows into town like the last of the Red of Mamas, trailing stardust in her wake. Her full-throated rendition of Black and Blue is peerless, and you begin to suspect her hotel room is probably bigger than the small theatre in which she finds herself!
You can’t have a party without dancing, and I’ve seldom seen a dancer like tap star Michela Marino Lerman, who, with Mwenso co-conceived this show. Prodigious hardly does justice to the virtuosic display she puts on tonight. Quite simply astonishing. Who knew that feet could move that quickly (in the right direction) ? I didn’t even mind the fact I had to stand up in my seat at the back in order to see her feet. Something to bear in mind in a studio theatre with no reserved seating. Sadly this show was limited to just a few performances, when it would benefit from a longer residency somewhere else. That said, if you do get the chance to see this show, arrive early, and keep the rest of the evening free. After seeing This Joint is Jumpin’ you’ll want to keep the party going.