Television
Entertainment Television

'Dancing on the Edge' TV review: Jazz Age elegance

Chiwetel Ejiofor is having a moment.

The British actor is getting Oscar buzz for the film "12 Years a Slave," which RedEye movie critic Matt Pais has given a rare 4-star review. He's also a big reason to watch the five-part miniseries "Dancing on the Edge" (9 p.m. CT Oct. 19, Starz; 3 stars out of 4).

Ejiofor plays Louis Lester, a British-born bandleader in 1930s London who has struggled to find paying gigs for his band until his music transfixes music writer Stanley Mitchell (Matthew Goode). Mitchell manages to get the all-black ensemble booked into a ritzy hotel where aristocrats and other rather stuffy folks wine and dine.

A friend of Mitchell's, Donaldson (Anthony Head)—whose only job, it seems, is being wealthy—suggests to Louis that he get a female singer. He hires two: Jessie (Angel Coulby) and Carla (Wunmi Mosaku). And with that, he also gets the attention of jazz-crazy future British kings Edward and George.

The royal duo, just by seeking command performances, makes the reimagined Louis Lester Band the talk of London's high society.

But it's still the 1930s, and prejudice, bigotry and poverty dull the sparkle of party time. Most of his progressive-thinking patrons abandon Louis without a second thought when tragedy strikes. Ejiofor gives an emotionally rich performance as Louis watches all he has built tumble around him.

Ejiofor's is one of several striking performances. John Goodman blusters convincingly as an American mogul called Masterson. Goode matches the marvelous Jacqueline Bisset, who plays the reclusive-yet-influential Lady Cremone. Coulby and Mosaku surprise with their more-than-capable singing of original jazz tunes by Adrian Johnston.

Though the gorgeous production starts out slowly and has its pompous moments, it's ultimately worth your time.

Writer, director and exec producer Stephen Poliakoff based his story loosely on accounts of the real Duke Ellington Band rubbing elbows with royalty in Europe.

He throws in a troubling murder mystery and a romance that's controversial for that time, but keeps focus on themes that still resonate today—racism, classism, mistrust of immigrants, abuse of power and the fickleness of fame (or of those who grant it).


Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Fall TV 2013 preview: 11 new cable, Internet shows

    Fall TV 2013 preview: 11 new cable, Internet shows

    Every fall, the major broadcast networks unveil the most new TV series and thus grab the biggest chunk of audience attention. But quantity doesn't necessarily equal quality, so to find some of Fall TV's most interesting fare viewers need to check out the cable networks—some you've probably never...

  • Lollapalooza style portraits

    Lollapalooza style portraits

    Concertgoers pose at the three-day fest in Grant Park.

  • Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    And just like that, there’s only one day left of Lolla. Here’s what stood out to us from day 2. Best: The Tallest Man on Earth: Maybe it was just a right-mood, right-set situation, but boy this was the perfect mid-day act to take a breather, sit in the sun, and just chill and listen to and enjoy....

  • 50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    Shots in The Dark at Parliament Nightclub with 50 Cent and The Underground Nightclub with Wyclef Jean and Joey Fatone July 31st

  • Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    One day down! Here’s the best and worst we saw at Lolla on Friday, plus a few superlatives from day 1. Best: Anyone who knows me knows I was bound to pick Paul McCartney as my favorite act of the day. The Beatle came out and gave it his all with more than two hours of hits, tributes and jokes about...

  • Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    What can you really say about Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, pop music pioneer, worldwide cultural icon, and all-around great guy, that hasn't already been said? I mean, seriously. With the Beatles changing music for the better, becoming a pop culture institution and being "more popular...

Comments
Loading
81°