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Stephanie Vlahos: The Gangster Hour

In the best numbers, Juilliard-trained Vlahos covers well-known, though not often-heard tunes, giving them a dark edge. Most memorable are Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."

In the best numbers, Juilliard-trained Vlahos covers well-known, though not often-heard tunes, giving them a dark edge. Most memorable are Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” and John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.”

A Maurice Ravel sound poem, “A Piece in the Form of an Habanera,” is pure emotionality that makes for aural delight.

Other highlights include two Vlahos/Kevin Peters compositions, “Sentimental” and “Want My Baby Back,” both of which have tongue in cheek, rise impressively in intensity and use her five-piece band and five dancers well. Not only the ears but the eyes get a treat.

Not everything comes off smoothly. The opening and closing song, Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” was painfully loud and lacked the emotional connection of many of the other songs. When Vlahos sings at a table stage left, the sightlines are such that much of the audience can’t see her.

The set by Craig Hurley adds zest, particularly the arm-waving palm trees.

Stephanie Vlahos: The Gangster Hour

(Luna Park, West Hollywood; 100 seats; $ 10 top)

Production: Produced and directed by Stephanie Vlahos; choreography, Veronica Apodaca; sets, Craig Hurley. Opened, reviewed May 25, 1995; runs Thursdays through July 6. Running time, 2 hrs. Dancers: Veronica Apodaca, Liz Stacy, Cindy Ricaldi, Mark Mendonca, Deborah Randall. Band: keyboards, Wayne Peet; guitar, Kenny Lasaine; bass, Steuart Liebig; drums, Darren Edwards; trumpet, Lee Toft; saxophone, Robert Lockart. Well known as a mezzo-soprano for the L.A. Opera, Stephanie Vlahos spirits herself into silk stockings and sultry costuming for a night of camp and serious singing in "The Gangster Hour." She brings an evening of old-fashioned nightclub entertainment. The only thing missing is Jim Carrey turning into a jaw-dropping wolf and whistling. The two-hour show, divided by an intermission, presents 21 songs, occasionally sandwiched with moments of the mobsteresque -- the kind of parody that could be called "the Cotton Club Meets the Maltese Falcon." What sells the evening however, is Vlahos' incredible voice and phrasing.

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