When I first heard about Boogie Stomp!, playing at Long Island City's Chain Theatre, the title grabbed me; it was unconventional and playful enough to motivate me to browse their website. The online description mentioned that the play told the "largely untold tale of boogie woogie and how it has shaped modern American music." Uhhh....
As far as I was concerned, boogie woogie was nothing more than a few made up words. So I did enough research to know that the play consisted of mainly piano music, and I listened to a clip of the two stars jamming out. But I was careful not to look too closely into the show because I still wanted to leave an element of surprise.
I've always had a soft spot for Long Island City, but I was overwhelmed when my boyfriend and I got off the train at Court Square, coincidentally the same stop I had gotten off at for years to take voice lessons at the Long Island City Academy of Music. In my short absence, Long Island City had morphed into quite the chic area and many a yuppie had claimed it as their own. I was pleased, but not surprised, to find the Chain Theatre there as well.
The space was limited. Two beautiful pianos were in the center of the stage and nothing else. Because, ultimately, Boogie Stomp! wasn't about production: it was about the music. And the gentlemen responsible for bringing this music to life? None other than Bob Baldori and Arthur Migliazza. These guys were clearly experts in their field and they oozed charisma. Together, they gave me a thorough education in all things boogie woogie. It was amazing to see first hand that many of the different genres of music that we are so familiar with have borrowed from or were influenced by boogie woogie.
I never would have imagined that I'd laugh so hard at an instrumental show (or even at all, for that matter), but between Bob Baldori and Arthur Migliazza's inappropriate jokes and hysterical anecdotes, it was difficult not to! At piano recitals I've attended in the past, rigid music snobs run rampant and you can't so much as breathe too loudly or risk disturbing the performance. Boogie Stomp! had a more relaxed atmosphere where I knew that I didn't need to suppress any urges to cheer or applaud in appreciation of the music. In fact, this sort of participation was encouraged.
It didn't take long for me to grasp why the play was named what it was.I don't think I can recall one moment in the show where the entire audience wasn't stomping their feet to the beat, refusing to be passive because the music simply wouldn't allow it. During the crowd favorite, "Back in the USA," everyone started singing along with the chorus as if it was planned. And at one point, while Bob Baldori was treating us to an original song he wrote on the keyboard, Arthur Migliazza invited two women from the front row to dance with him! I was beyond tempted to leave my seat and take part in this mini dance party, and if I was seated any closer to the stage, I would have.
Prior to seeing Boogie Stomp!, I was never a huge fan of instrumental blues and jazz music. As I singer, I had always gravitated to music where the main focus was the vocal line. But the moment those guys put their fingers to the keys, I knew that I could not continue through life without boogie woogie.