Cool Papa’s Party
A conversation with choreographer Maurice Hines and writer/director Thomas W. Jones II
by Joel Markowitz
It was late, the end of a long evening rehearsal, and the cast of Cool Papa’s Party had one more song in them – “Sho’ Can Dance” which they recorded for us before quitting the stage, leaving just me, 12-time Helen Hayes Award-Winning writer and director Thomas W. Jones II, and the legendary dancer, director and choreographer Maurice Hines. Like verbal tappers, Maurice and Tom crack each other up with stories about the history evoked by the show and putting this production together, but what underscores their talk is the respect these artists hold for each other, their cast and those who have come before.
Tom Jones who wrote as well as directed the piece says “Cool Papa’s Party is to Sammy Davis Jr, as Dreamgirls is to Barry Gordy and the Supremes … It’s a tone poem – a love poem to an era that’s gone, and the people who shaped it… This show feels like it came through me, not from me.””
Cool Papa’s Party was already underway when Tom mentioned it to his friend Maurice Hines, who immediately offered to choreograph it. “It just came out of my mouth, and I said, “I’ll do it!” Maurice and his brother Gregory knew Sammy Davis Jr. “so it was easy for me to recreate the tap and jazz.” Maurice talks briefly about his early career, stretching back to the days at the Apollo with the young Sammy Davis, Jr. and on through “the golden years of Las Vegas” in the 50’s which the show re-creates. “This show is perfect for me …. it’s fanabulous!”
Cool Papa’s Party is onstage Feb 5 – March 15 at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St, Alexandria, VA.