Lonita Cook Review: Blame it on the Boogie at MTH Theater

Hold on to your hips, ‘cause it’s time to boogie-oogie-oogie-oogie …

… and then ooogie-oogie-oogie some more!

Company photo/Photo credit: Cory Weaver

Musical theater returns to the metro with the opening of MTH Theater’s new disco review, Blame it on the Boogie—aptly named for one of The Jackson 5’s memorable bops (and one of discos hottest hops).

Three Casanovas and three foxy ladies sing us through the flash of electric 1970s music and fashion. A live four-piece band drops those four-on-the-floors while dancers shimmy in and out to add that solid gold dream-like flair disco is remembered for.

Popular tunes are piped through the lobby to get us primed as we enter the theater. It’s already dark and a little bit smokey. And just as the lights pop on a Barry White-type voice welcomes us to the show.

Oh, it’s on.

Blame it on the Boogie opens with Kool & The Gang’s Celebration to get us not only in the mood, but in the right mindset. This is a time of rejoice—theater is back, baby. It’s time to come together. It’s up to you. What’s your pleasure? Everyone around the world—come on!

From that first number, Boogie promises to be a lively and entertaining joyride. Willis White has one of those sing-the-telephone-book-and-still-have-me-hooked kind of voices. We are impressed out the gate.

Ensemble/Photo credit: Brian Paulette

The ladies give us the hallelujahs with a rendition of It’s Raining Men led by Erikka Dunn. Robert Vardiman shows off his easy tenor as the lead singer on the Trammps Disco Inferno. And Jazlyn Epps shows she knows how to vocally stroke a song, styling Car Wash by Rolls Royce.

LeShea Wright is the woman for one of times most enduring anthems, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. There is a sweetness and purity to her vocals as she whispers those first lines that disappear by the end as she takes us to church in a proclamation that represents where we find ourselves socially: “As long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive. I will survive.”

T. Eric Morris/Photo Brian Paulette

T. Eric Morris is the most enjoyable to watch. Disco doesn’t just have a musical structure or fashion aesthetic; it has a sentiment. One that, at the height of its era, was defined by sensuality and a bit of bad. Boogie at times feels too clean, too neat. But Morris is wild, fun, in love with it—rife with a little bit of Studio 54 bravado.

The popularity of each song does much of the work, but that work is getting you up on your feet and boogying on down. And you will. In the beginning, there will be some patrons rocking in their seat to the beat. A few songs in, a couple of brave hearts will be up in the aisles dancing. By the middle, most will be participating. In the end, everyone who can is on their feet letting it go and giving in.

Robert Vardiman (L) and LeShea Wright (R)/Photo credit: Brian Paulette

Much of the fun is wondering which song comes next. This one, I’ll tell you. We Are Family is the final tune. After all the partying, these lyrics linger as a reminder of what we will always be.

Blame it on the Boogie: A Disco Inferno plays Wednesdays through Sundays now through June 27. (Be prepared to follow MTH’s social reuniting safety protocols.)

Directed & written by: Tim Scott

Vocalists: Willis White, Jazlyn Epps, T. Eric Morris, LeShea Wright, Robert Vardiman, and Erikka Dunn

Dancers: Sydnee Bell, Courtney Germany, Katie McCluskey

Band: Julian Goff, drums; Michalis Koutsoupides, keyboards; Dustin McKinney, guitar; and Joey Panella, bass

Choreographed by: Marc Wayne

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