What is it? A Village Playhouse show based on the life of jazz and swing legend Louis Prima.
Why see it? Born and raised in the jazz scene of early 20th century New Orleans, singer and bandleader Louis Prima paved the way for later Italian artists like Perry Como, Tony Bennett, and Frank Sinatra. His classic hits are familiar to most people, whether they know it or not — like “Just a Gigolo,” “Jump, Jive, and Wail,” and “I Wanna Be Like You,” a favorite song from The Jungle Book (Louis provided the guttural voice of King Louis). Members of the Village Playhouse and the Joe Clarke Band perform this multimedia tribute to the King of Swing.
Who should go? Anyone who loves those high energy swing songs and isn’t afraid to get the catchy lyrics (“I wanna walk like you, talk like you”) stuck in their head.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 26, June 1 at 7 p.m.; May 29, June 4 at 8 p.m.; June 7 at 3 p.m. • Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • (888) 374-2656
King Louis: Village Playhouse brings Louis Prima back to life
Louis Prima won’t be forgotten, if Keely Enright has anything to say about it.
The early 20th-century composer/performer might lack the name recognition of contemporaries like George Gershwin, but the Village Playhouse artistic director has made it her mission to bring the spotlight back to the man who inspired later household names like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and even Elvis (where’d you think he got that wiggle?)
The Wild One, to be performed at the Village Playhouse May 25-June 7, is the third in a series of original productions written by Enright celebrating 20th century greats. With previous shows that have profiled Harold Arlen and Hoagie Carmichael, Enwright’s goal is to give long-overdue recognition to hard-working personalities.
“I was looking at performers who’d made a huge contribution,” Enright says.
Prima’s songs are sure to jog memories — “Jump, Jive, and Wail,” “Just a Gigolo,” and “Zoot Suit Riot” were just some of his hits. He was also the voice of King Louis in Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Prima grew up in a family of Italian emigrants in a poor section of New Orleans in the 1920s. Surrounded by a working-class as well as a large African-American population, he was exposed early on to the city’s burgeoning jazz scene, and he started playing Dixieland jazz.
“His music is completely formed by growing up in an Italian/black part of New Orleans,” Enright says. “His idol was Louis Armstrong, and his sound was completely formed by these earlier great African-American jazz artists.”
The Village Playhouse’s production, which has been a big hit since opening in 2005, gives a uniquely interactive overview of Prima’s life.
“It’s sort of like an A&E special with live performers,” Enright says. “They take you through the journey with their costumes and musical background, taking you back into the flapper era all the way through to the ’60s.