Review: Swing preserves a vital musical era

Baby Boomers are finally allowed in on the antics of their parents’ parties -the really fun ones that raged on downstairs as they lay in their beds, wide eyed and excluded.
Those same parents can now re-live that booming music and dance of the Big Band Era and the grandkids can get a clue about it. With a lot of luck , Snoop Dogg and the like will be dropped as Swing works it’s simple, sweet, entertain­ment magic on everyone.
What really got those parents whooping it up was the music of the greats – Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Bennie Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Harry James to name a few. In Swing, Drayton Entertainment does a fine job of revisiting those days, right down to the animated hands of the conductor and the never fading smiles on the faces of the dancers.
Those expressive hands belong to the legendary How­ard Cable, Swing’s music director and arranger. Having collaborated with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Ben­nett, and with some 60 years of multi-faceted musical experi­ence, the 87 year old musical icon has the 12 piece live band exploding with rhythm. It is great for the audience to see them right onstage. Featured prominently is the horn section, a now-disappearing though a vital part of the Big Band Era of the 1930s and ’40s.
The diverse 10 member ensemble directed by Alex Mustakas includes The Mantini Sisters, well known to Drayton Entertainment audiences, particularly in The Ladies of Broadway. They seem frozen it time, lending their voices both as beautiful soloists and beguil­ing in harmony such as in their Andrews Sisters performance of the bittersweet Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.
Drayton favourite John Dev­orski really gets around the stage in such songs as Tan­gerine and Three Little Fish­ies. Michael Killinger presents an effortlessly smooth baritone in numbers like The Song is You and Racing With the Moon.
The audience gets swaying enthusiastically to the dance numbers. The Fred Astaire style tappin’, particularly by the spirited Ashley Fenster and game Michael Falcucci totally recall the energy of the era. Jessica Horn and Patrick Stiles tap, bounce, and stomp with the best of them as well.
Among the hilarious dance numbers is the Hawaiian War Chant from Spike Jones and His City Slickers, offering the unequalled spectacle of Ari Weinberg in a human fruit bowl ensemble. That appealing per­former could bring a smile to the lips of the coldest marble statue. Also adding to the fun are the jibberish lyrics in many of the songs such as Mairzy Doats and Yi, Yi, Yi, contri­buting to the rebellious side of that musical era.
The simple pleasure of hearing some of the greatest classics of all time like Glenn Miller’s favourite, the stirring Moonlight Serenade and infec­tious In the Mood makes Swing an evocative evening of live entertainment.
Perhaps a little more story line, explanation, and anec­dotes would have been appre­ci­ated, particularly for the young­er audience members who must be relied upon to carry the torch before it disappears – as Glenn Miller did.
Swing plays until April 6 at the St. Jacobs Country Play­house. For tickets call the box office at 519-747-7788 or 1-888-449-4463, or visit www.­dray­