Maurice Hines is rocking the house at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. After more than sixty years in show business, Hines still has the juice, performing great standards from Frank Loesser, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and many others. In a full-on, non-stop evening, Hines even has time to tap out a few steps himself, as well as introducing some tap stars of the future, including the Manzari Brothers -- John and Leo -- and an 11-year old tap sensation, Luke Spring.
Hines draws on both his personal and professional life in structuring the evening -- beginning on the streets of Harlem with his younger brother Gregory, to the stage of the Apollo Theater, to the big venues in New York, Las Vegas and around the world. While he performed with all the greats, including Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, Hines' greatest inspiration came from his parents, especially his mother, who provided much guidance and wisdom to the Hines brothers.
Most poignant are Hines' memories of the discrimination that he faced as a child when he was entertaining on the road. Excited by their first booking in Las Vegas, the brothers were disappointed to find their venue was far from the Strip, in a hotel reserved for black patrons. And when he visited a big Vegas hotel at the invitation of Tallulah Bankhead, who had seem the brothers' perform, the hotel management refused to let the boys swim in the hotel pool. When Bankhead insisted, saying she would not perform her act at the hotel unless the boys were able to swim, the management relented, but then drained the pool after the boys left.
At seventy, Hines has the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger man. He approaches the performance with gusto, and as he sings the timeless songs of the thirties, forties and fifties, one feels a connection to the early vaudeville roots of tap. However, Hines in clearly not living in the past, as he peppers his performance with references to current rappers, President Obama and gay marriage. Not to mention is outstanding all-female band, the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, led by Dr. Sheerie Maricle, which brought down the house with some riveting solo and ensemble performances. And speaking of outstanding, the Manzani Brothers and Luke Spring are amazing to behold in a dazzling display of tap wizardzry, joined by Hines himself. All in, this is a show that is not to be missed.