Theater Review: ‘Swing!’ at The Gateway Playhouse

Swing! the musical is a high-energy romp with over 30 show-stopping numbers showcasing dance styles from the Lindy Hop to tap and, of course, Swing! Playing now through June 18 at the Gateway Playhouse, Swing! is the second show in the theaters’ summer season. This Tony-nominated production opened on Broadway in December of 1999 and is said to have inspired ABC’s wildly popular television show Dancing with the Stars.

Fans of the show will recognize professional dancers Damian Whitewood and Ekaterina Fedosova from earlier seasons. The two polished pros bring an exotic flair to the stage, and Fedosova shines especially bright throughout the performance. She’s quick, precise, graceful and fluid. The troupe of dancers is phenomenal, their energy is electric and the dancing is magical to watch.

The show has no dialogue—everything being communicated through song and dance. In the playbill, a quote from dancer J. Morgan White caught my eye: “To see us dance is to hear our hearts sing.” Dance is certainly a unique form of communication, and the emotions that the dancers portray—whether it’s sorrow, happiness or romance—is amazingly communicated by this all-star cast.

The quartet of singers in Swing! are nothing short of astounding, each offering their own flavor through the songs. Kate McCann is an easy favorite with a powerful set of lungs that can belt so loud and clear you’ll be mesmerized by the beauty. Her rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You” is moving, and her fun duet with Maceo Oliver, “Bli-Blip,” is lively. Her commanding performance of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Blues in the Night” gave me goose bumps.

Stephanie Gandolfo plays the part of the blonde bombshell well, and her sultry performances of “Two and Four” and “Skylark” are riveting. Her playful duet with trombonist Will Marin, “Cry Me a River,” is fun and sexy. Maceo Oliver and JP Qualters are both smooth and full of infectious energy when they sing. I especially enjoyed their numbers “Rhythm” and “Throw That Girl Around.”

Swing! also showcases the Big Band Era, and the onstage musicians often become a part of the show. Highlighting instruments like the tenor and alto saxophones, trumpet and trombone excites and enlightens the audience.

The sheer number of dance styles in Swing! is mind-boggling. Dance captains and husband and wife duo Samantha and Brian Lawton bring their expertise of the Lindy Hop and Country Western Swing to the stage. They are obvious pros and watching one flawless performance after another is awe-inspiring. They have such chemistry when dancing together, it’s almost like watching one being dance instead of two. The amount of time the dancers have spent perfecting their craft is evident and it’s a treat to watch it live on stage.

The other dancing couples are just as wonderful to watch, and I especially loved the comedic duo of Hannah Jean Simons and White, whose antics on stage produce many belly laughs from the audience. The all-American couple, Stephanie Brooks and Thomas Sutter, will break more hearts with their USO inspired routine.

Come to think of it, all of the dancers are outstanding. Each performer brings their A-game to the stage for each number. As an avid lover of all things dance, I found this show a treat and a feast for the senses. Picking out all of the familiar dance moves—from Tango to Jazz—Swing! has everything you could ever want from a musical. And then some.

Swing! is playing now through June 18 at the Gateway Playhouse house Bellport. For tickets and information visit gatewayplayhouse.org.

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