The Dark Side of Jolson

Like the man himself, this stylish musical is irresistible despite its repulsive subject

In yet another string of roles, Garrett Long shows an amazing array of talents. As Ruby Keeler she pulls off a dazzling tap-dance riff and nails Keeler's horsey, loping gait. Long lacks Mae West's zaftig physique but she gets all of West's mannerisms just right. Same with a self-effacing script girl and Jolson's confident last wife, Erle (who in real life died this past January).

The company is backed by a fine onstage musical quartet that manages considerable range and complexity for so small an ensemble, with Joe Brent a standout on violin, guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Director Jay Berkow accentuates the show's theatricality, nimbly shifting the storyline back and forth through time. He also makes good use of the Playhouse itself, an antique theater from the 1920s that has an old Broadway feel about it. James Morgan's simple, evocative set design, a series of red velvet swagged curtains and some rolling platforms, creates a visual ripple effect -- a stage set within a set within a set.

Stephen Mo Hanan is masterful in his portrayal of a 
man both repellent and enchanting
Stephen Mo Hanan is masterful in his portrayal of a man both repellent and enchanting

Details

By Stephen Mo Hanan and Jay Berkow, directed by Berkow. With Robert Ari, Hanan, and Garrett Long. Through March 7. Call 305-442-4000 or www.cgplayhouse.com
Coconut Grove Playhouse, 3500 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove

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