at St. James Theatre Dec. 9
December 8, 1999
Caitlin Carter and Scott Fowler
Photo by Joan Marcus
After five weeks of previews, Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Swing! opens officially at the St. James Theatre.
The high energy, all-dance nod to the worldwide Swing phenomenon stars composer and song stylist Ann Hampton Callaway in her Broadway debut, with direction and choreography by Taylor-Corbett. The production was surpervised by the Tony Award-winning director Jerry Zaks.
The vocalists of Swing! include Laura Benanti, Everett Bradley and Ann Hampton Callaway, with Casey MacGill. The dancers include: Laureen Baldovi, Carol Bentley, Caitlin Carter, Geralyn Del Corso, Beverly Durand, Scott Fowler, Ryan Francois, Edgar Godineaux, Aldrin Gonzales, Robert Royston, Carlos Sierra-Lopez, Jenny Thomas, Keith Lamelle Thomas, Maria Torres and Michael Gruber.
Developed from an idea by the show's originator, Paul Kelly, Swing showcases top Broadway singing and dance talent in a revue of Swing, Lindy Hop and Broadway styles.
The full list of producers for Swing! currently includes Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Steven Baruch, Thomas Viertel, Jujamcyn Theaters and Lorie Cowen Levy/Stanley Shopkorn in association with BB Promotion, Dede Harris/Jeslo Productions, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick and PACE Theatricals/SFX.
As reported earlier, the show's dancers say they are stretching their physical endurance and technical capabilities to the limit, especially with the Lindy Hop. Production sources say that despite a few minor injuries and a few scheduling adjustments, the show is opening with its original cast intact.
"It's right up there," said dancer Caitlin Carter, when asked to rate the show's difficulty on a scale of one to ten. Carter, who is steeped in ballet, said the special demands of Swing and the Lindy Hop made working on the show a special challenge. "There's a lot more 'partnering' necessary in this show than in others," Carter added.
Carter and two of her cast mates, Carol Bentley and Scott Fowler, told Playbill On-Line that with the Lindy Hop, dancers typically partner off in order to establish everything from stronger routines to deeper trust.
Typically in Broadway dance, the dancers say they dance with an individual. In Swing, they are enthusiastic about getting the opportunity to rediscover partner dancing, which opens up a whole new world for them.
"The demanding quality of this work is remarkable, and the commitment of the company is inspiring," Swing originator Paul Kelly told Playbill On Line. "First of all, it's wall-to-wall dance; it's not a dance number, then a book scene, and then a song. A very key element to the project was bringing in associate choreographers as consultants. Lynne's work with them has brought about some of the most successful elements of the show."
Taylor-Corbett's associate choreographers on Swing include Scott Fowler, Rod McCune and Ryan Francois, the World Lindy Hop champion. Show originator Kelly and several cast members unanimously cite McCune's contributions. McCune served as both dance captain and "lift coach," which they say helped enabled the Broadway dancers to learn the Swing and Lindy Hop skills that Ryan and his wife and partner Jenny Thomas brought to the project. Through this process Taylor-Corbett was able to fashion the cohesive dance company she had envisioned. Taylor Corbett's previous credits include choreographing Titanic and Chess, as well as the films "Footloose" and "My Blue Heaven."
"There's something about
this music that just gets to people," Kelly added. "Whether it gets to their
souls or the soles of their feet first, I don't know. I recognized that it's inherently
joyful and I wanted to capture that."
Four-time Tony Award-winner Jerry Zaks supervises the production. Sets are designed by Thomas Lynch, costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Kenneth Posner and orchestrations by Harold Wheeler.
Based on an original idea by Paul Kelly, Swing is produced by Marc Routh (head of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres), Richard Frankel, Steven Baruch, Thomas Viertel and Jujamcyn Theaters, in association with BB Promotion, Dede Harris/Jeslo Productions, James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyers, Libby Adler Mages/Mari Glick and PACE Theatricals/SFX.
The musical celebration features world-class Swing dancers, a Swing band and acclaimed vocalists Laura Benanti, Everett Bradley, Casey MacGill and jazz/cabaret star Ann Hampton Callaway in her Broadway debut.
The 30 dance numbers in Swing represent the many forms of swing that are popular around the world including neo-Swing dances, country western, Latin and traditional Swing dancing. The Gotham City Gates, a new Swing band comprising former members of the Blues Jumpers, Illinois Jacquet and the Lionel
Hampton Band, performs throughout the show, giving it a distinctive and compelling sound.
Cast members Bradley, Callaway and MacGill also made musical contributions to the show.