Sophisticated Ladies at Beef & Boards: A Jazzy Date Night Filled with Love

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Mine was last night.

As my husband and I watched Musical Director Tenéh B. C. Karimu step into the spotlight at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre and glamorously raise the conductor’s wand, I realized I had never before seen a full-length jazz song and dance revue. And I knew very little about the legendary jazz pianist and composer Duke Ellington. Our evening watching Sophisticated Ladies was a chance to experience the sophisticated and complex beauty of jazz – and to feel the pure love of the art that the performers on stage shared generously with the packed audience. (It was also a much-needed date night after a busy week of work, juggling kids and youth baseball!)

Sophisticated Ladies

The show, directed and choreographed by Kenney Green-Tilford, celebrates 100 years since Ellington first moved to New York City to perform in Broadway nightclubs. It features an on-stage jazz orchestra, plus an ensemble of talented singers and dancers who bring of Ellington’s music to life: Darius-Anthony Robinson, Yvette Monique Clark, Kelliann DeCarlo, Zachary Dyer, Arika Lynn Casey, Gigi Huang, Tiffany Gilliam, Joseph Perkins Jr., Sean Blake, and Jonny Rouse.

Sophisticated Ladies

Beef & Boards accurately describes the show as a “stylish and brassy retrospective of The Duke’s musical legacy,” which uses music and dance to evoke the “glamorous nightlife and sensuous highlife of Ellington.” The costumes, designed by Dustin Cross, were dazzling – particularly those that took us on a trip back in time to the 1920s. Songs included “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “’A’ Train,” “Hit Me With A Hot Note And Watch Me Bounce,” “Satin Doll,” “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,” and “Sophisticated Lady.” I especially loved the impressive ensemble tap numbers and the sweet harmonies during a duet between jazz powerhouses Kelliann DeCarlo and Yvette Monique Clark (“I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good/Mood Indigo”). Tiffany Gilliam (who has appeared in “An American in Paris” at Beef & Boards and “The Color Purple” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre) was also a standout in my eyes, looking and sounding amazing every time she was on stage! And I could watch Joseph Perkins dance all day long – what a gift!

Sophisticated Ladies

One thing I learned through this first-time experience: Duke Ellington was known for a signature catchphrase that he often used at the end of performances: “We love you madly.” Throughout the show, you could feel the cast on stage radiating that kind of love and gracious energy to the diverse, appreciative audience.

I can’t help but think The Duke would have loved all of this, madly.

Trisha Lawless
Trisha Lawless
Trisha Lawless is an Indianapolis-based corporate communications advisor and freelance writer who began her career as a television news journalist. She enjoys performing in local theatre productions as her schedule permits, and has appeared in roles with Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis Civic Theatre, and BobDirex. Trisha and her husband Ben are proud residents of Indy’s Historic Irvington neighborhood where they live with their children (middle school through college age) and Golden Retriever.

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