Los Angeles Event Review: THE CLIFTON’S CANTEEN (Clifton’s Republic)

by Tony Frankel on July 4, 2017

in Dance,Extras,Music,Theater-Los Angeles

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A BOOGIE-WOOGIE BLAST

A one-time good-time event that will surely return next year, this sense-surrounding salute to USO shows of the WWII era was a perfect way to spend a Fourth of July holiday. Taking place on all four floors of the newly refurbished Clifton’s Republic in downtown, Clifton’s Canteen contained contagious crooning, dynamic dancing, and a bright big band sound from Creating Arts Studio.

With the band upstairs, the party started on the first floor with The Andrews Sisters (who would return time and again throughout the program), warming us up with the calypso “Rum & Coca Cola” with full choreography. Songs in this “pre-show”—which might as well have been the actual show it was so great—included “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Bali Ha’i,” “I Could Write a Book,” and “At Last,” a 1941 song written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film Sun Valley Serenade.

It’s on this floor where you buy your food, cafeteria-style naturally; before the renovation, this was known as Clifton’s Cafeteria (heck, I will always use that name). And I have to say the food quality has improved 100% since the re-opening. Our favorite was the dark turkey, smothered in gravy, and a side of that sweet, buttery macaroni and cheese. The chicken parmesan simply melted on your fork before even hitting your mouth; the veggies were fresh, crunchy and hot, and the mashed potatoes full of awesome chunks and skin. Anything that remained on the plate was scooped up with those remarkable corn muffins.

The party progressed throughout Clifton’s different theme areas: the Art Deco-era Monarch Bar (celebrating the natural diversity of California); the Gothic Bar (a shrine to the majesty of nature); and the elegant Brookdale Ballroom (representing the parlors and museums of a bygone century). every floor is festooned with curiosities — , including stuffed animals and wall murals of forests. Shooting up the center of the building is a four-story giant fake redwood tree; crane your neck a bit and you could watch the delightful entertainment on more than one floor at a time.

Not part of the show but open to the public, is the gorgeous, newly opened Pacific Seas, a separate area that salutes the golden era of Tiki Bars. Resplendent with a staggering array of mind-boggling authentic artifacts—including entire boats, a catamaran, a large fresnel lens from a lighthouse, and a 1,600-year-old tiki—this homage to Polynesia wonder and travel of the Golden Age, is open for patrons 21 and over Wed. through Sat. evenings.

For Clifton’s Canteen, the actor/singer/dancers were introduced as the stars they played—Clark Gable, Ann Sheridan, Danny Kaye, Fred & Ginger, Carmen Miranda, all in full regalia. OK, in real life, Clark didn’t sing (well, he did a bit in Idiot’s Delight, 1939), but the pretense here worked great when Clark and Ann sang “When You Wish upon a Star” from a fourth floor balcony (the sound worked surprisingly well given the cavernous space and wireless mics).

Entertainers mingled with guests (some of whom didn’t even know they were in the middle of a show!), and there was even a Cigarette Girl in a sparkling blue-sequin dress selling desserts instead of tobacco. Fred danced and sang “The Carioca” (from Flying Down to Rio) at the base of that enormous, towering Redwood Tree, and later was joined by Ginger upstairs for “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” singing, riffing and dancing through the crowd as the smokin’ hot band, led by Dan Myers, got the crowd grooving. It was definitely a family affair in charge: Mrs. Myers played Ginger, and their adorable daughters, the Myers Sisters, captivated the throng with “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.”

Danny Kaye easily received joyous audience participation (“Hi-Dee-Hi-Dee-Hi-Dee-Hi!”) with Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher,” accompanied by a wicked horn player, who really went to town in “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy”; man, did that cat blow while we all happily trucked around the room. And while Danny sang, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” the audience slow-danced with both characters and each other. It was a lovely mingling of community—a very mixed crowd of all colors, ages, gay and straight, saluting the veterans who worked so hard for the freedom these patrons were enjoying.

photos courtesy of Clifton’s and CAC Studios

The Clifton’s Canteen
Creating Arts Studios
Clifton’s Republic, 648 S Broadway in the heart of DTLA
played July 2, 2017
for reservations and more Cafeteria info, call 213.627.1673 or visit Clifton’s
for Canteen info, visit CACStudios

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