Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.
Vegas met vaudeville Saturday night when the Delaware Theatre Company opened its 37th season with Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life.
Hines, the older brother of the late great tap meister, Gregory Hines, is a consummate artist in his own right: a Tony Award nominee as well as celebrated singer, dancer, choreographer and director who has graced stages both here and abroad.
Hines is one entertainer who knows how to work a room. His smile and energy are infectious and he clearly has a respect and admiration for his fans that has — sadly — become a rare commodity in today’s world of entertainment.
He kicked the evening off with effusive praise for Wilmington, its people and the DTC, both in word and song with I’ve Never Been in Love Before. You got the impression that there was nowhere in the world he’d rather be than right here and the sold-out crowd loved it.
But Hines doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk, sometimes literally. He talked about how he ate at Harry’s Seafood Grill on the Riverfront with Bud Martin, DTC’s executive director. Reports of “Hines sightings” abound as he hoofs about town.
Hines talks and sings about his childhood, his relationship with his brother, the influence his parents had on his career and life, all the while getting superb backing from the nine-member Diva Jazz Orchestra, a distaff powerhouse ensemble.
Tappin’ Thru Life is much more than a chronological recounting of a life’s events. It is, as Hines points out, a love letter to his mother who, unlike his skeptical father, never doubted that her talented toddlers were destined for the world stage. “My father was just along for the ride,” he quipped.
We see photos of the lovely Alma Hines in her wedding gown and decked out in a stylish fur on the porch with his father. “Isn’t she beautiful?” Hines asked the audience as he gazed lovingly at the faded black-and-white images.
Hines also gets misty-eyed when talking about his brother. He regrets the argument they once had that caused them to be estranged for 10 years. But once they reconciled, they were inseparable until Gregory’s passing in 2003 at age 57. “I miss my brother,” he said before singing My Buddy.
Hines’ personal history is interspersed with social comments regarding integration and segregation. He tells of the time he and his brother received an invitation from Tallulah Bankhead to visit her whites-only hotel in Las Vegas. (She threatened to boycott her own show if management objected.) The brothers swam in the pool then had to watch as the proprietors drained the water after they exited. Hines punctuated the story with a heartfelt rendition of Nat “King” Cole’s signature song Smile.
There were magical moments as well. Like the time he met Frank Sinatra, the reigning king of Las Vegas, in Sammy Davis Jr.’s dressing room. And if that wasn’t enough excitement, Dean Martin, the indisputable “king of cool” himself, appeared at the door. “Jay-Z and P. Diddy think they’re cool baby, but Dean Martin was the coolest man I’d ever seen,” he said.
Much of the dialogue and comments between the band and the audience is ad-libbed, making for a comfortable interaction in the intimate venue.
Hines shares the stage with the Manzari Brothers, photogenic siblings who appeared with him in “Sophisticated Ladies.” Their relentlessly high-voltage performance provided the perfect complement to Hines’ cool and relaxed elegance.
The audience erupted when nine-year-old Jake Sweeny, who studies tap at the Delaware Arts Conservatory, joined the Manzaris in a fast and furious battle of the taps.
The band is big, bold and brassy. Horns blare and pianist Jackie Warren shows her instrument no mercy as she pounds away at the keys. Music Director Sherrie Maricle delivered a jaw-dropping drum solo during a performance of Duke Ellington’s Caravan.
Played and sung numbers included big-band favorites like It Don’t Mean a Thing, to Broadway’s I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, and Luck Be a Lady, to the rock era’s Love the One You’re With.
Hines closed the show with a love song to the audience, Too Marvelous for Words, and after five standing ovations, the audience obviously felt the same about him.