LOUIE PRIMA SHOW ENJOYS EAST COAST PREMIERE AT CT CABARET IN BERLIN


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Elvis Presley credits him for his famous wiggle.  Walt Disney selected him to play King Louis, an orangutan, in his movie “The Jungle Book.”  Tony Bennett painted him this year as the poster subject for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His music has been used for commercials featuring Coca-Cola to Commerce Bank of America and General Motors to The Gap.

Who is this versatile Italian-American hailing from New Orleans, a singer, actor, songwriter, band leader and trumpeter:  Louis Prima.  In the 1920’s, Prima was noted for Dixieland jazz, in the 1930’s for swing music, in the 1940’s for the big band sound, in the 1950’s for his Las Vegas lounge act and in the 1960’s for his pop-rock stylings.  Prima made each era uniquely his own.

Weekends until Saturday, August 14, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin will be staging the East Coast premiere of “The Wildest!!!,” a musical journey through the multi-talented career of Louie Prima. A more accurate title might be “Primo, Prima” because the show features the best of his varied show business life.

Novelty songs, ballads, Italian songs, tunes from swing to the twist, will be brought to the cabaret’s intimate stage by a talented troupe of young and energetic actors including Catherine Rogala, Blanca Grande, Sarah E. Gilbert, Kelly Lucas, Joe Autuoro, Garth West, Jonathan Escobar and Christopher Grande, with an ensemble featuring Kristin Ceneviva, Chelsea Neville, Vicki Todd, James J. Moran and Matthew Collin Marrero.

According to artistic director Kris McMurray, this debut show fell into his lap when he received an email from Louie Prima’s daughters Luanne and Toni Elizabeth who conceived and wrote the show with Randy Johnson and Thomas Porras.  It would be a great addition to the show if anecdotes and stories from Prima’s colorful stage life where added, even if only with a voice over.

The music selected, almost three dozen tunes, range from “Autumn Leaves” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to “Just a Gigilo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” to “That Old Black Magic,” featuring the musical sounds of Prima and one of his favorite lead singers Keely Smith, who also was his fourth wife.  Their collaboration has been likened to a Lucy and Desi double dates with Sonny and Cher.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin (off the Berlin Turnpike) at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctacabaret.com.  Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. but come early with snacks for picnic fun.  Cakes and coffee are available for purchase.

Come see the new show that has been billed as “Smokey Joe’s Café Meets Mamma Mia,” a musical that showcases almost five decades of that Primo performer, Louie Prima.

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