Luke Alleva certainly has stamina. On Saturday night, May 2, he finished his lead role in the high-energy Hot Shoe Shuffle at the Bryan Brown Theatre. There was apparently an after-party into the early hours of the morning. But, at two o’clock on Sunday, there he was, looking alert, turned out sharply in a well-fitting suit, ready to launch into the first-ever performance of The Dancin’ Man.
This show has been put together and choreographed by Alleva, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable showcase for his all-round, high-energy entertainment talent.
In selecting material, he looked to his idols: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. They all performed great songs, and they all danced. (There are some great clips on YouTube if, like me, you have forgotten just what good dancers Sinatra and Sammy Davis were; and Martin wasn’t bad either.) Alleva isn’t doing impressions of them. Instead, his song choices, choreography and musical interpretations suggest their style, their typical moods, paying tribute rather than imitating.
As Alleva demonstrated in Hot Shoe Shuffle, he is a dynamic performer with fantastic stage presence. In this show, he revealed more sides to his performance than called for in the role of Slide. To the delight of the audience, he tapped athletically as well as performed soft-shoe; he clowned, glided, serenaded, winked at the audience, chatted, showed off tricks with his hat, and twirled his cane. He even vamped it up when changing his shoes, making a simple chore into a funny, wonderfully campy, burlesque sequence.
The singing and dancing elements of the show integrate well with each other, and care has been taken songs, with their different emotional states, never jar or bore the audience. Alleva effortlessly goes from one to another, and his versatility was truly demonstrated in “I Could Have Danced all Night” in the up-beat style of Jamie Cullum.
Backing Alleva are three Sydney musicians, Andrew Howie (keyboards), Andrew Mayes (bass guitar), and David Manuel (percussion). Delightful Erin Bruce (April in Hot Shoe Shuffle) made a surprise appearance, performing a duet with Alleva as well as a funny solo.
Overall, the show had a convincing sheen of quality. The contributions by the musicians and Ms Bruce all demonstrated their great entertainment value, both musicially and in terms of their chemistry with Alleva. The venue too, looked and sounded slick and professional.
I left believing that Alleva could probably do anything and make it entertaining. Just for one example, his growly “Mac the Knife” made me long to see him tackling Tom Waits, another poet of the broken heart and a man—like Alleva—who knows a snappy hat when he sees one.
Alleva is taking The Dancin’ Man to regional Australia. Keep an eye out for it!
Wyndham Cultural Centre, Wyndham, Victoria, Saturday May 20 2015.
To book: Cultural Centre Box Office (03) 8734 6000 or [email protected]
Mildura Arts Centre, Mildura, Victoria, Saturday July 18 2015.
To book: Arts Centre Box Office (03) 5018 8330 or www.milduraartscentre.com.au