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"In the Mood" at Mesa Arts Center

Patricia Myers By

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"In the Mood": A 1940s Musical Revue
Mesa Arts Center
Mesa, Arizona
March 12, 2014

A 13-piece big band revived the music of the 1940s, from Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey to Duke Ellington and Count Basie, accompanying six young singers and dancers in vintage costumes to re-create the music of the World War II era.

The road show was conceived by pianist-director Bud Forrest, former accompanist for the Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force, marking its 20th touring-year during a week of performances at the Mesa Arts Center. The two-hour touring show opened with Forrest's String of Pearls orchestra playing "St. Louis Blues March" that was based on W.C. Handy's 1914 chart, later arranged in march tempo by 1940s bandleader Jerry Gray.

More than 50 songs from the war years followed, including a sing-along to Lionel Hampton's "Hey Ba-Ba Re-Bop" and a peppy song-and-dance routine to Johnny Mercer's "Accentuate the Positive." There were vocal ballads, including "All or Nothing at All" and "I'll Be Seeing You," and a military-salute segment featuring the theme songs of four branches of the armed forces, the emcee asking audience members who served to stand for recognition and applause.

There also were sad songs like "We'll Meet Again" and "The Last Time I Saw Paris," as well as the happier sounds of "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Bugle Call Rag." Through it all, the agile dancers danced the Lindy Hop and jitterbugged through rapid twirls and remarkable acrobatic moves.

The final selections of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "In the Mood" were capped by "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)," many in the audience quietly singing along as the show ended.

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