Like the glorious Leslie Uggams show at the Palace last week, the sparkling “Swing!” at Mac-Haydn Theatre is more music revue than theater performance. The more than two dozen numbers from the ’30s and ’40s bop, jive, croon and stomp. There’s no dialogue, but thanks to the artistry of the 20 young singers/dancers and the eight-piece band, every song tells a story.
The original show, which was conceived by Paul Kelly and helmed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, ran on Broadway for more than 450 performances in 1999, earning six Tony nominations. Director/choreographer Kelly L. Shook has put her own stamp on this production with athletic dance moves and a keen eye to which performer might be appropriate for which number. The beauty of her choices is that everyone gets a chance in the spotlight, and everyone merits it.
WHERE: Mac-Haydn Theatre, Route 203, Chatham
WHEN: Through July 31
HOW MUCH: $30-$28, adults; $12 for children under 12
MORE INFO: 392-9292
She has also had to keep track of who’s doing what from song to song, so there’s always the right somebody — properly costumed and not short of breath — to go on next. With only quick lighting shifts and minimal set changes between songs, the show moves along briskly. In fact, after a high-energy “Boogie Woogie Country,” featuring 15 members of the cast, I wondered who was left to sing the next number. No worry. Charles South (what a dancer!) and Brittany Weir (what a singer!) are on hand to deliver the humor of “All of Me” and “I Won’t Dance.”
Of course, with a revue, you’re bound to have favorite songs/routines, and I had mine. The novelty number “Bli-Blip” features sharp work by Scott Wasserman and Alison Drew. Ditto the amusing “Dancers in Love,” with Carl Hulden and Lauren French. Carman Napier’s vocals on “Skylark” and in a number of other ensembles are powerful. Act II opens with the band joyfully banging out “Caravan,” by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, followed immediately by a breathtaking tap dance number on “Swing, Brother, Swing.”
If there is one number, however, that made me glad to be alive in Columbia County on a hot weekday afternoon, it was “Cry Me a River,” in a clever arrangement for trombone and soprano. Daniel Cordell steps out of his seat in the band and does a cat-and-mouse love duet with Amelia Millar, who sings the Arthur Hamilton standard with wit, poignance and affection. The voice and the horn: she says it all with words, and he replies with subtle variations on waah-waah.
Shook’s work is complemented by that of music director Josh D. Smith, who has trained the cast to a fare-thee-well and has some amusing interplay with them during the show. Jimm Halliday’s period costumes — the fedoras, the suspenders, the bold ties, the skirts and the sparkling dresses — are colorful exclamation points to the songs’ energy. Miking? Just right.
As he danced out, tapping his cane, my 89-year-old father pronounced the show a success. He should know: He was there when this wonderful music came around the first time.