Sophiscticated Ladies

The infectious swing and sizzling jazz of Duke Ellington have never been more appealing than in “Sophisticated Ladies,” the irresistible revue now playing at Pioneer Theatre Company.

Revues are a risky business. Without a storyline or the actual presence of the performer or songwriter being spotlighted, even audiences who like the subject may get restless after a while.

“Sophisticated Ladies” flies over this hurdle by maintaining a fast pace, a short running time and enough joyous singing and dancing to satisfy anyone.

The cast includes six back-up singers and six leads, all mixing and matching and singing and dancing in various combinations, working through such great songs as “Hit Me with a Hot Note,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Sophisticated Lady.”

Chaundra Cameron plays the role of the Chanteuse (that’s as close to character names as the show gets) like a powerhouse, belting out “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “I’m Checking out” with the outstanding talent and attitude of a diva. She earned the noisiest ovation opening night.

Allyson Tucker (the Danceuse) does a heart-melting “In My Solitude” and “In a Sentimental Mood,” the latter while wearing a stunning dress with a train that cascades down the staircase at center stage. (In fact, all the costumes, by Susan Branch, are outstanding in this show.)

I also quite liked David Jackson as the Raconteur, often paired with the Danceuse. As the Soubrette, Jeni Carver doesn’t have the panache of the rest of the cast; the voice is there, but the soul is not.

Carver comes into her own, though, in the second-act “Imagine My Frustration,” where she assumes the role of a nerdy girl wishing she’d be asked to dance. It’s a highly comical scene, demonstrating the range of the actors, not to mention the imagination of director/choreographer Patti D’Beck.

The live band — which is fantastic, by the way — often overpowered the singers, even though they all had microphones; one presumes this was merely an opening-night glitch and was not intentional.

Should you go? Most certainly. Great music, great singing, great dancing — what more could you ask for?