By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Eight young hoofers feign enthusiasm as they stomp and clomp awkwardly through Linda Leonard's jump-and-jive choreography. Swing dancing is done on the balls of the feet. These kids all have the flatfoot floogie with the floy-floy. One guy actually fell on his face during the "Boogie Woogie Country" number. And there's a weird bit on "Harlem Nocturne" where a girl dancer bump-humps a cello.
Only singer Natalie Berry, who seems to have wandered in from professional showbiz by accident, does everything right. She's a pretty gal who lights up the joint with her best numbers: the Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael ballad "Skylark"; and Arthur Hamilton's (not Justin Timberlake's) jazz-bluesy "Cry Me a River," sung to a wailing trombone (nice job on that one, trombonist Kurris Muller).
But poor Ms. Berry has to don an unfortunate yellow voile prom gown for the finale. It's dingy and wrinkled, like somebody slept in it. For a year.
Fangs for the Memories continues through February 13 at Pocket Sandwich Theatre. Call 214-821-1860.
Swing! continues through January 30 at Artisan Center Theater, Hurst. Call 817-284-1200.
Artisan needs to wake up and grow up. Low-budget theater doesn't have to be bad. Look at the remarkable shows done by small companies like Audacity Productions, Upstart, Amphibian and The Ochre House. They operate with limited resources but pay attention to the details, making the most of what they have. They care about quality.
The management and the people who choose to perform (unpaid) at Artisan are settling for shoddy productions and selling them as legit theater. They're insulting their audience, whether their audience knows that yet or not.