News Column

Review: IU theater jumps, jives into summer 'Swing!'

June 17, 2013

YellowBrix

June 17--Ever think of tap dancing on top of a rolling two-foot high cylinder? That's only one of the impressive dance feats you'll see performed during this luscious musical review directed and choreographed by George Pinney.

"Swing!" opened Indiana University's summer theater season on Wednesday and runs through June 30.

Although many believe that "American Bandstand" was the first media program to jump-start millions of young adults jitterbugging across the county, the swing era of the '30s and '40s with its big bands and radio broadcasts enticed crowds to Lindy hop and twirl partners to new music by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Johnny Mercer, among others.

Where to start? -- perhaps with the sumptuous-voiced Brook Wood singing scat in the opening number, "Swing It, Brother, Swing." Her voice ranges from sweet to playful, to gently mocking, to sly, to inviting, to triumphant. Later, in the clever "Bli-Blip," Wood and the multitalented Nat Zegree blather through a first date of nonsense syllables, including ordering drinks and having a spat over a misinterpreted babble (No, not get in your pants).

Playful, too, but with mournful and angry sub-tones was Meghan Goodman's rendition of "Cry Me a River." Her spurning (or was that spurned) lover, Colin Schreier, knelt and two-stepped across the floor, apologizing with his trombone. I'd never seen a trombone dance number before. It was a hoot.

Other moving numbers included Emily Schultheis' emotive rendition of "All of Me" and Maddie Shea Baldwin's performance of Indiana's own Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark." Under Terry LaBolt's skillful musical direction, all the singers performed admirably.

In "Harlem Nocturne," Joe Musiel danced a sensual invitation to Mara Jacobucci and Carly Hammond, but as happens so often in life, the funny guy (Joe Giovanetti) won the woman, or in this case, women.

All the dancers performed complicated numbers with lots of kicks, cartwheels, splits, etc. On the dance stage, particularly striking were Brian Bandura's smooth athleticism, Abigail Bartish's grace and strength, and Joe Giovanetti's agility and rhythm.

"Swing!" is nicely calibrated between pensive ballads and get-them-stomping-in-the-aisle numbers such as the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (sung by the men only), "Jersey Bounce," and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing.)"

Robbie Stanton's costumes perfectly captured the time period when swinging skirts ruled, and women covered bare arms in blouson jackets and wore lovely tilt hats with feathers. The guys blasted color in suits of contrasting shades. Costumes ranged from everyday play attire to WWII military uniforms (sailors and Marines also boogied) to elegant white-accented black gowns and tuxes with red cummerbunds.

None of this would have happened without the talented orchestra and their rich playing. It included Terry LaBolt, Mat Roehrich, Phil Ponella, Geoff Wood, Alex Krawczyk, Quinn Sternberg and Josh Roberts.

There's no hint of a story line here, only joy in movement and the sadness of the blues when love's gone bad. For a fantastic evening of fine music and dance, don't miss this show.

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If you go

WHO: Indiana Festival Theater.

WHAT: "Swing! The Musical," conceived by Paul Kelly.

WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and June 25-29; 2 p.m. June 23, 30.

TICKETS: $15-$25. Call 812-855-1103 or buy online at www.theatre.indiana.edu.

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(c)2013 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.)

Visit the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) at www.heraldtimesonline.com

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