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Wednesday, May 16,2012

Piano power

'Boogie Stomp!' rocks Stormfield Theatre

by Tom Helma

It’s not a musical, but it’s almost entirely musical — not even close to being an actual play, but clearly quite a dramatic performance. The B and S Railroad of boogie-woogie blues rocked and rolled its way into the station house of Stormfield Theatre, creating a spontaneous romp through the history of African-American music, from Muddy Waters to Chuck Berry, with a little Berry Gordy thrown in along the way. “Boogie Stomp!” is pure music and all heart, a perfect ending to the Stormfield Theatre season.

Mixing historic commentary with solos and duets that demonstrate a flexibility of flying fingers, Bob Baldori and Bob Seeley demonstrate a rapid-fire virtuoso versatility, moving effortlessly from one form of boogie-woogie to another. The “St Louis Blues,” played by Seeley, progresses through various incarnations, then Baldori adds a cover of an early Chuck Berry tune.  

As the music heats up, Baldori and Seeley compete wildly to see which of them can play the fastest. Audience foot-tapping becomes aggressive foot-stomping.  Slower sad-sounding songs follow, evoking images and feelings of bars we’ve never been to, beers we’ve never drunk, blues we’ve never really felt. Eyes close, people begin to sway. Couples find themselves touching shoulders. It becomes an intimate evening. Women’s hearts melt as Baldori caresses his way through a sexy gospel blues rendition of “The Tennessee Waltz.” 

The duo turns comic, first with semi-lame jokes, then hamming it up, impressively with “Four-play,” in which  both play the same piano simultaneously. Seeley shows off impressive complexities with a driving “Bumble Boogie” version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.” The evening wraps us with — what else? — an audience sing-along.

It is a coup that Stormfield was able to land this act. Some would say, paraphrasing the Holy Scriptures, that a musician is without honor in his own country. Not true in this instance. Baldori, and Seeley are a dynamic elder-duo that has toured Europe and played on stage with Elton John, Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder and other legends.

They merit a standing ovation.  


‘Boogie Stomp!’

Through May 20

Stormfield Theatre

201 Morgan Lane, Lansing

7 p.m. Thursday, May 17; 8 p.m. Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19;

2 p.m. Sunday, May 20

$25
(517) 351-6555

www.boogiestomp.com

www.stormfieldtheatre.org

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