by Terrance Mc Arthur
In 2000, while we were all paying attention to other things, a musical called Swing! ran for 461 performances on Broadway and picked up five Tony nominations. Reedley’s River Theatre Company has picked up this blast from the past and put it on stage through March 11 at the Reedley Opera House.
What is Swing!?
You know what swing music is, right? The songs of the 1930s and 1949s with Black American underpinnings.
You know what swing dancing is, right? Lindy, jitterbug, jive, cutting a rug.
So, Swing! Is…….Yes!
Songs, dancing, an occasional hint of a story, and it swings!
Oh, the songs! “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “In the Mood,” “Cry Me a River,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” and about 20 more, crooned, belted, and scatted by a lively cast.
Before I tell you about the cast, let’s talk about wigs. For women in the Swing era, the hair was the thing. Lillie Valencia put together an arresting set of ‘dos that evoked the era, yet swung with a modern styling.
Rachel Ensley sweeps the stage with a torrent of red hair, and rips up “Cry Me a River” in a torrid duet with Omar Ruiz’s trombone, the stuff of very strange dreams.
Jessica Meredith has bossy blues and sassy swing in her voice, and she makes the most of her River City debut.
Jeremy Salas, another RCTC newcomer, oozes with sleaze as a lothario with wicked moves, but he puts a light touch to his parts of “All of Me.”
Sarah Andrew Bailey is supernaturally slender, with legs that go on forever, sort of a sexy Olive Oyl, and her dance moves are jaw-droppers.
Stephanie Barnett has a black belt in belting, but she tenderly caresses the audience with her vocals on “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Charlton Hughes has been very active on the RCTC stage of late, and he spends most of his time in Swing! as a boy-next-door type, carrying one of the few through-story sequences as a lovestruck young man who discovers what marriage is like over the course of several songs and interludes.
Jessica Williams is as bright and bubbly as ever, singing and dancing with aplomb
Jayromy Mercado dances well and gets in some solid musical chops.
Desiree Janee Lineburger doesn’t get many featured chances to shine in her first River City show, but she provides solid support and draws the eye.
Bethany Houghton and Laramie Woolsey pop the tops off of several numbers, and Theo Hill’s tango and tap was a lot more suave than he was as Oz’s Cowardly Lion. Hill also designed costumes for the show (A few dresses could have been longer or had fuller skirts).
Choreographer Emily Dixon provided solid dance patterns that made everybody’s steps look good, and Jordan Williams was the Man with the Band, tickling the ivories and propelling his musicians through number after number with smooth flair. Director Tidy Gill weaves her cast through the era with a mixture of impish glee, romance, and a hint of sex.
There are classic songs and never-heard-that-before tunes, dancing highlights on a vest-pocket stage, and the friendly atmosphere you expect from the Reedley Opera House, but don’t dance in the aisles. Stay seated and watch the stage Swing!
Reedley’s River City Theatre Company is located at 1720 10th Street. For further information and to purchase tickets you can go to their website, or call 559-638-6500 or 866-977-6500.
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