Review: ‘Swing!’ at the Gateway Performing Arts Centre of Suffolk County

Currently playing at the Gateway Performing Arts Centre of Suffolk County is Swing! a song and dance showcase celebrating the classic sounds and dance steps of the swing era. It is a swirling, twirling, upbeat show that is sure to please. Originally conceived by Paul Kelly and choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Gateway’s version has been excellently restaged by Desiree Duarte.

Ekaterina Fedosova and Damian Whitewood; with Samantha Lawton, Brian Lawton, Shanna Heverly and Tislarm Bouie. Photo by Jeff Bellante.

The audience is greeted by a glittering big band set by Scenic Designer Brittany Loesch that is complete with lit podiums for each musician. That’s right, there’s no hiding in the pit for this band. Conducted by Robert Felstein on piano, the entire show’s live music is provided from right there on stage. Several members of the band even get involved in the routines to excellent effect, such as John Brierly’s trumpeting for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Ross Kratter on bass in “Harlem Nocturne,” and the charming incorporation of Will Marrin’s trombone playing in “Cry Me A River.”

The show is comprised of various song selections from the big band era that are either sung, danced to, or both. While there is no overarching plotline to follow, each number tells a little story in itself, and many of the characters make return appearances. Impressively, there is no loss of momentum in this show as they transition from number to number. Many of the routines flow so seamlessly from one to the next that it’s hard to know where one stops and the other begins. In addition, a striking array of period costuming has been provided for this show by Costume World Theatrical, frequently corresponding beautifully with Kim Hanson’s lighting choices and creating changing color palettes for each number.

Vocal stylings are provided by four singers, Stephanie Gandolfo, Kate McCann, Maceo Oliver, and JP Qualters. They each bring their unique talents to individual numbers throughout the show, but also harmonize together in classic quartet style during songs like “Don’t Sit under the Apple Tree” and “Swing, Brother, Swing.”

The dancers are cast into characters by couple, and each is excellently paired, providing the gamut of styles. Where Sexy Blues Couple (Shanna Heverly and Tislarm Bouie) is fluid and sultry, Lindy Hop Couple (Co-Dance Captains Samantha Lawton and Brian Lawton) is sharp, fast, and flawlessly synchronized. In “Show Me What You Got” the West Coast Swing Couple (Akina Kitazawa and Jesse Jones) seems to fairly float through the air like feathers, while featured dancers Damian Whitewood and Ekaterina Fedosova as the Latin Couple spin and explode around the floor like the firecrackers the costuming suggests. Not least of all, Comic Couple Hannah Jean Simmons and J. Morgan White pull off truly humorous physical comedy within the fluidity of their dancing to the adorable “Dancers in Love.”

The full company numbers are a real treat. The dancers move in gorgeous harmony, filling the stage with mesmerizing fluidity. Don’t look down during this performance, something new and beautiful happens in each successive minute, and you’ll want to see it all.

Running Time: Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes with one 20-minute intermission.

Swing! plays through June 24, 2017, at the Gateway Performing Arts Centre of Suffolk County – 215 South Country Rd, Bellport, NY. For tickets call the box office at (631) 286-1133 or purchase them online.

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