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TO JUNE 4
“I’m too much woman to be discreet,” smirks Bernardine Mitchell’s Bessie Smith in the midst of this aggressively entertaining (if slightly scattered) musical revue. And damned if she isn’t. Mitchell possesses a commandingly deep voice and a throwaway style that conjures up Pearl Bailey at her most sanguine. And while she’s the headliner, Mitchell’s by no means the only asset the show has. The supporting cast boasts seven terrific dancing singers, every one of them sexy as hell. A couple of the men (including David A. St. Louis, a Howard University student who has enough stage presence to headline a show of his own) look like they’d be right at home at Chippendale’s, and Katherine J. Smith (who once studied dance at Duke Ellington High) pretty much scorches the floorboards with her second-act solo. Under the circumstances, it hardly matters that author/director Thomas W. Jones II has saddled the evening with a sociobiographical concept that’s confusing when it’s not being self-consciously schematic. In fact, even sloppy miking didn’t screw things up too much at the final preview. In such close quarters, the talent practically knocks your ears back. Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.; matinees Saturday & Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Studio Theater, 1333 P St. NW. $16.50-28.50. (202) 332-3300. (Bob Mondello)