While THE MUSIC MAN Continues, SPEAKEASY: A Musical Revue Awaits

by RoxyRegionalTheatre on August 7, 2015

“Joe sent me,” spoken softly and in a hushed whisper through a peephole in the door, was the one and only entry into a secret and unlawful world of the Roaring Twenties. “Joe sent me” …how many millions of times were those words uttered to gain admittance into what was then called a speakeasy?

It was a place where consumers of alcohol went to partake of what was then, under federal law, forbidden. This was during Prohibition, which was enacted to cut down on crime but succeeded only in worsening crime and creating an avenue for new crimes to grow and take over the liquor trade.

As part of our “on the terrazzo” series, the first production of our 33rd season is Speakeasy. We want to take you back to that time in our history when gangsters were the purveyors of libations, one President’s father held the patent on Irish whiskey, and the likes of Sophie Tucker entertained and held court at 21 Club, an infamous watering hole still standing today in Manhattan.

Those who couldn’t do without their booze — Cole Porter, The Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, etc. — became expatriates, joining the likes of Picasso and Gertrude Stein in the City of Lights, Paris. But for those who stayed stateside, gangsters like Capone, Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd took advantage of Prohibition to make lots of dough from bootleg booze.

As Cole Porter wrote, “in olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking …now, anything goes.” It was a time when women rouged their knees and sported bee-stung lips and fluttering fringe above the knee — fast cars, fast women and easy living, when a movie ticket was a dime.

Our Speakeasy is a musical revue. The music of the ’20s is filled with catchy lyrics and double entendres, all a bit spicy but without being blue. My partner, Tom Thayer, has selected songs such as “This Joint is Jumpin’,” “Mean to Me,” “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” setting the scene in our lobby with small candlelit tables topped with old thick 78 Edison discs and pulled dialogue from Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang. Added to that, a running gag which Orson Welles cut from The Magnificent Ambersons ties the whole evening together.

Four seasoned and lively performers — Kelley Barker, Ryan Bowie, Brian Graziani and Rori Nogee — sing, joke and dance the Charleston through a trunkload of popular tunes from the period, making for a night of special entertainment which you don’t want to miss nor will soon forget.

Speakeasy runs August 28 through September 12 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. (There is no performance on Wednesday, September 2.) Admission is $20 and includes a beverage for those 21 and over.

The Music Man still owns the mainstage through August 22, playing Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee next Saturday, August 8.

See you at the theatre!

[John McDonald]

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