Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Howard Arlen | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Howard Arlen


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Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Howard Arlen, Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park. Harold Arlen's songs are a great excuse for a revue like Julianne Boyd's assemblage, which ranges from the sultry abandon of "Stormy Weather" to the unforced innocence of "Over the Rainbow" (performed with its rarely heard introduction) to treasures like "It's Only a Paper Moon." Arlen--who was chief tunesmith at the Cotton Club, then hit Hollywood fame--eventually returned to his roots in rhythm and blues with such musicals as House of Flowers, Jamaica, and St. Louis Woman. Working with lyricists like Ira Gershwin, E.Y. Harburg, Johnny Mercer, and Truman Capote, Arlen was a composer who tended to "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive," as in "I've Got the World on a String."

Director-choreographer Marc Robin moves his performers in all the ways that move an audience, delivering a Lindy Hop that almost demands audience participation. He also knows how to interweave these songs, which makes for a surprisingly dramatic stroll down memory lane. Consider the contrast between Karla L. Beard's soulful "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues" and the following song, Paula Scrofano's industriously peppy "Get Happy." Curt Dale Clark plumbs heartache in "Come Rain or Come Shine," Roberta Duchak digs gold from the rarely heard "Don't Like Goodbyes," and Stanley White almost sells overindulgence in "One for My Baby." Sweet and Hot proves the perfect swan song for the main stage at this beloved south suburban showbiz citadel, soon to be replaced by a Wal-Mart.

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