The Music of the 1920s and Beyond
Total Rating: 
August 22, 2017
August 24, 2017
September 24, 2017
Florida Studio Theater
Theater Type: 
Florida Studio Theater - Court Cabaret
Theater Address: 
First & Cocoanut Streets
Running Time: 
90 min
Solo Revue
Book: Carole J. Bufford.

Little lights twinkle in a curtain underneath a red velvet drape in the background. Down center comes twinkling-eyed Carole J. Bufford in a shimmering beaded flapper-style dress, rhinestone head band, and silvery high heels. Brightly smiling, she starts to sing songs of the Roaring 20’s when “hair and hem lines got shorter,” but the list of kinds of jazz got longer.

Bufford cites a “Ladies Home Journal” article that claimed “jazz put the sin in syncopation,” but she’s virtuous singing a jazz song praising “Chicago.” She follows up with a plaintive “The Man I Love” for which she explains its long path to becoming popular. (She typically cites similar historical facts about the songs she chooses.)

A suggestive song about a key and a keyhole leads into a story about Louis Armstrong in 1926 and his hit that Bufford sings: “If I Could Be With You.” Long before Elvis, she claims, “Are You Lonesome Tonight” came to stages in the last of the ‘20s. So did Sophie Tucker with “After You’ve Gone.” Bufford wisely doesn’t try to imitate previous singers but rather shows why their songs were popular.

For her Act II, Bufford goes into the ‘30s in glimmering black and white dress with side slits that allow her sprightly dance moves when her band takes over parts of her songs. Atop her headdress to one side is a jaunty feather. Her musical director and accompanist Michael Masci gets special attention in her song about a pianist.

Bufford tells stories about and sings hits of such luminaries as nightclub queen Texas Guinan and Broadway star Ruth Etting. Bufford also does a very lively, fast-talking “Ain’t Nobody Here But Me” and then contrasts it with a well-acted, deliberate, sad “Ten Cents a Dance.” Such differences are beautifully underscored by her musicians: Masci; Sarasota jazz favorite Tony Bruno on his drums; Kroy Presley who follows up his acclaimed bass performance in last month’s FST cabaret show; and FST newcomer Keith Greene, with his emphatic trumpet.

By 1936 the country’s big hit was “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie,” with which Bufford is unexpectedly upbeat. Her last number is a wispy “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.” I suspect audiences will, however, talk about Bufford — in the positive way I heard so many as they left her show.

Carole J. Bufford; Band: Michael Masci, piano; Tony Bruno, drums; Keith Greene, trumpet; Kroy Presley, bass
Lights: Ryan Finzelber; Sound: Thomas Korp
Costumes are uncredited, seemingly chosen by Carole Bufford or designed by or for her. They are perfect for her show.
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
August 2017