Theater: Strike Up the Band!

Want to hear great old Broadway shows with gifted young stars? Head for the Encores! series

In a fourth-floor rehearsal room at Manhattan's City Center, the cast of St. Louis Woman has gathered to run through the first act of the 1946 Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer musical. "Lord knows what happens next!" bellows Chuck Cooper, a Tony Award-winning actor from The Life. What happens next is a little theater magic. Vanessa Williams enters, slithers onto a straight-backed chair and sings Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home. This tune is a taunt, a turf marking and a declaration of sexual independence in 32 bars. And with Williams, a young star of CDs, movies and TV, cooing it,...

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