The Miracle Theatre Inglewood, CA
Material: To say Parlor Social knows how to put on a show is an understatement as “The Rent Party” is just that, a musical. What you are getting here is a modernized version of Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club. This love letter to the likes of Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald is interspersed with rap from Mr. A.N.O.N., who plays the landlord in this story written by Ali LeRoi and Eva LaDare. The premise is a woman must raise rent through a type of barn raising known as a rent party, which was commonplace during the Great Depression.
Musicianship: The band is solid and each musician is allowed plenty of room for soloing on songs like the classic jazz tune “Sweet Georgia Brown.” On “Say Hep Hep,” Pageot pulls off a righteous accordion solo that sounds like a keytar in an ‘80s rock band.
The audience also went wild for the group’s spin on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which had a Benny Goodman “Sing Sing Sing” feel to it. The only element that the music seemed to be yearning for was clarinet, which so many of those classic tunes used to incorporate.
Performance: Given that this was the first performance of the musical, it actually ran fairly smoothly. The flow of the show could stand to be improved by only having a few select moments for audience participation
and also by tightening up the pacing of the dialogue exchanges. The inclusion of tap dancers Assata Madison and Becca Nelson of the dance troop “Syncopated Ladies” definitely infused energy into the performance. Di Lauro exhibited expert control to either withhold or draw out phrasing, depending on the feel of a song. It is a true delight to see her performing in the jazz scat style of Ella Fitzgerald; at times it is both surreal and haunting––she is so on point.
Summary: During their intermission music director Pageot, along with Di Lauro, received a Senate Certificate of Recognition for their artistic achievement. This, as well as a guest performance by legendary tap dancer, teacher and choreographer Chester Whitmore, left you with the feeling that this is a show not to be missed! You can catch Parlor Social at the Playboy Jazz Festival on June 10 at The Hollywood Bowl.
– Brooke Trout