Many folks were expecting this soul revue to be a second-rate kitschy tribute but, after this media night, everybody is raving. And deservedly so. The Esquire Show Bar Revue is a highly entertaining collection of classic songs sung by soul veterans who will lift your spirits and raise audiences to their feet.

Named after Montreal’s famed 300-seat nightclub at the corner of Stanley and Ste-Catherine during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the Esquire booked such acts as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina Turner, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Wilson Pickett, Chubby Checker, Joe Tex and Percy Sledge. Not to mention The Avalons, the Montreal 1950s and ’60s doo-wop group with local singers Jimmy Dooley and Skipper Dean, who opened for many of the aforementioned acts.

Those performers – and many more soul stars of the era – are all represented in this 54-song production that boasts high production values, amazing outfits (check out Skipper Dean, shining in several glittering suits), a stunning replica of the Esquire neon sign on the Corona stage, plus a tight band that features a punchy three-horn section.

But it is the singers (and some really hot dancers) who steal the show: Franck Julien, Andrew Leader, the amazing Jimmy Dooley (he can still hit the high notes at the age of 72), Dooley’s son Michael Dozier, Skipper Dean and Montreal soul siren Sylvie Desgroseilliers.

There were a couple of segments that should be cut from the show – the Ray Charles segment with Michael Dozier impersonating Ray to close the first half is exactly that: a second-rate impersonation. In the second half, a blues segment saps the show’s exhilarating energy.

Fortunately the show bounces back both times. Showstoppers include Skipper Dean’s heartfelt rendition of When a Man Loves a Woman and Sylvie Desgroseilliers’s roof-raising version of Proud Mary, complete with dancers. But the heart and soul of the show really is Jimmy Dooley, who with his son Michael Dozier and Skipper Dean brought alive several old hits by The Avalons and brought the audience to their feet time and time again.

The Esquire Show Bar revue runs at the Corona Theatre all summer long, Friday and Saturday nights, until Aug. 30. Surf to