Sophisticated Ladies

Previewed 28 December 1991, Opened 6 January 1992, Closed 25 January 1992 at the Globe Theatre (now Gieldgud Theatre) in London

The Duke Ellington musical Sophisticated Ladies in London following a record-breaking UK tour

A glitzy and glamorous celebration of Duke Ellington's genius with the kind of eye-popping, foot-stomping song-and-dance numbers which only audiences at Harlem's famous Cotton Club can have experienced. Featuring a full-blooded big-band sound, sparkling sets and costumes, machine-gun tap-dancing, and Duke Ellington's unforgettable jazz numbers such as Satin Doll, It Don't Mean a Thing, Mood Indigo, I Got It Bad, and Solitude.

The cast features Jacqui Boatswain, Sergio Covino, Jacqueline Dankworth, Janie Dee, Jacqui Dubois, Martin Eyre, Dollie Henry, Horace Oliver, Neil Patterson, Jon Peterson, Rebecca Thornhill and Richie Pitts. Directed by Roger Haines with choreography by Gillian Gregory and David Morgan Young, sets by Chris Kinman, costumes by Terry Parsons, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Clement Rawling.

"People who saw Sophisticated Ladies, a celebration of Duke Ellington, in New York and Paris in the mid-1980s still speak of it with great admiration and affection. The production that has finally appeared in London is not on that level. In short, it is not sophisticated. Although the second half is better than the first, almost to the point of it being advisable to arrive at the interval, there are imperfections throughout... The main puzzle is why a show which on the face of it seems to promise so much should turn out to be so disappointing. Part of the answer lies in the lack of variety... Lack of variety is underlined by the almost entire absence of dialogue. Since there are no characters, there is no characterisation. There is also no story. The piece could do with the odd joke or stroke of wit and at least some differentiation... In the end Sophisticated Ladies falls because it is not live up to the title. Perhaps it is being done on the cheap. That is not what sophistication is about." The Financial Times

"Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies at the Globe is, in fact, the sixth tune-and-toe package to hit the London stage recently; and, while it's a slick, skilfully mounted 32-song revue, it also seems curiously devoid of anything resembling a heart or soul. The format itself is simple. Upstage Charles Miller leads a very good 12-strong band backed by a glittering art deco portrait of Ellington. Downstage a team of 12 singer-dancers whisk us through the numbers in lightly defined settings... The problem is that Ellington, unlike Coward, Porter or Sondheim, was not writing show-tunes for a specific dramatic context. His songs evoke a mood rather than tell a story and little is gained by having Everything But You sung by a lovelorn janitor with a broom and a crackly mike or indeed by staging Take the A Train as an impressionistic portrait of New York subway life. This kind of whistle-stop tour of the great man's work also precludes any hard fact... The show is perfectly pleasant. Roger Haines, the director, keeps it constantly moving and the choreographers, Gillian Gregory and David Morgan-Young, run the gamut from tap to high kicks to catapulting leaps. I emerged mildly diverted without having learned anything about Ellington the bandleader, the pianist or the man, and feeling that a show that treats some of his great compositions as simple dance scenarios in the end does him scant justice." The Guardian

"Sophisticated Ladies at least does not pretend to be more than some animated pickings from the oeuvre of Duke Ellington. The show is not to be recommended to those who want to learn any facts about the genius whose trim, benign face hangs in genteel reproduction at the back of the stage. Nor is it for serious lovers of his work, who will probably be irritated by the showbiz flimmery and flummery. It is for those who want to pass an undemanding couple of hours watching Roger Haines's gifted company sing and dance to the Duke's tunes... Charles Miller's band plays well, at times almost too well. It lacks that feeling of spontaneity and roughness Ellington himself so valued that he actually mared scores 'slovenly'. Yet even so, there are moments when trumpeters, saxophonists, cast and composer combine to produce something authentic. 'Diminuendo in Blue' may pass for little, and the title-song itself for virtually nothing; but a blend of 'I Got It Bad' and 'Mood Indigo' brims with desolation. 'He don't love me like I love him, nobody could, I've got it bad, and that ain't good': there, at least, is the sound of Ellington, rueful, melodious, original." The Times

Sophisticated Ladies in London at the Globe Theatre (now Gieldgud Theatre) previewed from 28 December 1991, opened on 6 January 1992 and closed on 25 January 1992