Fort Worth — DVA Productions’ musical revue It’s a Man’s World is a showcase for some great guy-powered tunes, 20 of the best from B. B. King to Sam Smith, Elvis to Bruno Mars, James Brown to John Legend. This concert-style evening at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, directed with verve by Tyrone King, has a fun summertime vibe—and enough good energy to slide an audience over the occasional rough patches.
DVA has produced two I’m Every Woman shows in past seasons, so this is all about equal time for the males of the species. There’s a lightly handled plot (the script is by DVA head Sheran Keyton, with a nice onstage/backstage set from David Ruffin) about a new, full-of-himself singer arriving to join the cast of a music revue already in progress. The four original singers aren’t sure if he’s meant to become a fifth singer—or a replacement for one of them. The storyline provides some drama, as each performer tries to out-sing and out-dance the new guy. Will this show “cut the mustard” and head for New York? And will this collection of egos ever become a team? Stay tuned…
There’s nothing quite as tasty as a bunch of male voices singing together (and ultra-close harmonies are the cream gravy on top), so it’s no surprise that some of the show’s best numbers are sing-outs from the whole cast, of songs including The Temptations’ “Get Ready,” B.B. King’s “Let the Good Times Roll”—or Sam Smith’s irresistible 2014 rouser “Stay With Me.” Some slick dance moves add to the fun (Keyton also choreographed the show) and make us recall not just the classic performers—but who and where we were back in the day, when we danced to those tunes.
As with most revues, there’s an up-and-down quality to the singing—a performer who’s terrific in one number might make you wince in the next—but there are some great voices onstage, and every one of these five singers knows how to sell a song.
Abel Baldazo has a goofy, cheery manner that makes his gutsy voice a surprise—as are the hip-swiveling skills he lets loose for the Elvis classic “Viva Las Vegas.” He’s gravelly and great in B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” and, more surprisingly, in a Pit Bull rap where we keep expecting him to stop for breath—but he doesn’t.
Brian Johns’ honey-coated tenor makes him a natural choice for the soulful slot: Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and John Legend’s “All of Me” are standouts, and he gets to show his “outdoor voice” singing lead in The Soul Stirrer gospel song “Jesus I’ll Never Forget”—reminding us of Cooke’s roots in church music. Johns, a classically trained tenor, makes his theatrical debut with this show, and he’s a real find.
Sheridan Keyton’s charm and showmanship outpaces his singing on a couple of songs, but he shines out on Michael Jackson’s “O Baby Give Me One More Chance” and in Lionel Ritchie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning” and “All Night Long.” And he brings some fine moves to a lot of the dance numbers, including a convincing “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Joshua Sherman, the cast’s token redhead, is another DVA newcomer (seen recently in Artes de la Rosa’s Into the Woods). He’s a live wire onstage, with a generous energy that helps power up many of the group numbers. And he’s blessed with a versatile voice, one that digs deep for Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and lightens up for The Beatles “She Loves You.”
Rick Spivey, playing the brash newcomer, gets to carry some of the drama and comedy of the night. He’s hilariously, intentionally wrong singing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” but gets to show his rich voice and great dance moves in other numbers—a grinding “Hound Dog,” an “Ebony and Ivory” duet with Sherman, and a cluster of James Brown classics, including “I Feel Good” and “It’s a Man’s World.”
One of the biggest pleasures of the evening is listening to the trio backing the singers. It’s led by DVA’s music director, the terrific Joe Rogers, on piano/keyboards, with Eddie Dunlap on drums and Chris White on bass. They’re so good, in fact, that every so often you may find yourself blocking out the singers for a moment or two—just to enjoy what the trio is doing all by itself.