IU’s Festival Theatre opens its summer season with Swing! the Musical. It’s a high energy concoction of music and dance from the swing era that integrates energetically athletic sequences with quieter more thoughtful moments. Director George Pinney’s talented young cast is drawn from IU’s musical theatre program, ballet and contemporary dance. Music director Terry LaBolt has done a fine job of coaching the singers and leads the onstage septet.
Vocal standouts among the female cast were Brook Wood, Maddie Shea Baldwin, Meghan Goodman, and Emily Shultheis. Wood energetically led “Swing It, Brother, Swing,” “Bounce Me Brother, (With a Solid Four),” paused to croon “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and returned in the second act for “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” Maddie Shea Baldwin did a lovely job with Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” and partnered with Colin Schreier for “I’m Gonna Love You Tonight.” Meghan Goodman had the heart-throbbing “Cry Me a River,” accompanied by the affecting trombone miming of Joe Giovannetti. Emily Shultheis did a nice job with the smokey “Blues in the Night.”
Although not quite as prominently featured as the ladies, the men of Swing! more than carried their weight. Nat Zegree seemed to be everywhere; singing, dancing, balancing on rolling drums, and even playing a mean ukulele. Joe Giovanetti sang the athletic “Throw that Girl Around.” Nick Pecoraro did a nice job partnering Meghan Goodman in the humorous “Kitchen Mechanics’ Night Out.” Caleb Fath had the lead and the Texas 2-step moves in “Boogie Woogie Country.” Colin Shreier sang strongly in “All of Me” with Emily Shultheis.
In all of these songs effective staging, lighting and dancing supported the music and the mood. There was always something to look at while you listened.
As the IU Department of Theatre and Drama has grown to become the Department of Theatre, Drama and Dance, it was good to see a strong representation from dance in the cast. Jennifer Gruener, Carly Hammond, Mara Jacobucci and Jacob Taylor from ballet and Joe Musiel from contemporary dance were all prominently featured in quartets, duos and solos.
Swing! the Musical in IU’s Ruth N. Halls Theatre continues Tuesday-Sunday through June 30 with evening performances at 7:30 and Sunday matinees at 2.
In July, the IU Festival Theatre moves from the musical to the dramatic. Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing opens on July 5 and Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker joins it in repertoire on July 12th. And don’t forget the kids and parents show Arnie the Donut opening June 22nd.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.