Review: Swing on This
Making its debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, this new show combines the musical talents of four of Australia’s best and brightest leading men alongside an 18-piece big band to deliver an homage to Swing music that is a delight from start to finish.
If you have Mad Men fuelled fantasies, this show is tailor-made for you. The boys, Michael Falzon, Matt Lee, Luke Kennedy and Ben Mingay are resplendent in 60s tailored suits; there’s a bar set up on stage where they mix cocktails and gently heckle each other from the sidelines and a soundtrack of Sinatra and Porter, Berlin and Brecht that keeps the banter flowing.
All four of these performers are accomplished singers in their own right. Falzon has been a musical theatre darling since his breakthrough role in We Will Rock You. Lee is probably best-known for his work as a dancer and as a judge on Dancing with the Stars but recently proved himself in Mary Poppins (so much so, he earned a Helpmann for his role of Bert). TV audiences no doubt recall the youngster of the group, Luke Kennedy who was runner-up in the popular reality show, The Voice. While Mingay originated the role of Billy in Dirty Dancing and has appeared in musicals such as An Officer and a Gentleman and Jersey Boys (though is perhaps best known these days for his role in the hit dramedy Wonderland).
What all four have in common is a love for Swing music and this show allows them to let that love loose on an audience. It’s not just well-swung standards however, the foursome have turned their hand to some unique musical arrangements that see them giving swing interpretations of rock classics like ‘Jump’ and ‘Wonderwall’.
Mingay and Falzon do most of the heavy lifting – easily managing the soaring notes and deep baritone that many of the songs require. Not that Lee and Kennedy are slouches – just their tone is more suited to the lighter arrangements. That said, Lee pulls off a flawless version of the Dylan classic ‘Mr Bojangles’ complete with a tap solo and Kennedy holds his own in swinging battle of ‘Hit the Road Jack’.
All four performers share a fabulous chemistry and happily assume their stage personas. They may be wearing matching suits but it doesn't stop them from letting their personalities shine: Bingay is the charming rude boy, Falzon the funny musical star, Lee is the dancer and Kennedy the newbie who cheerfully accepts the ribbing from his more experienced co-stars.
A surprise appearance by outgoing festival director Kate Ceberano adds to the fun. Ceberano pulls out the sex goddess and cavorts with ‘her boys’. And the boys in turn shamelessly play it to the hilt, injecting some fun into the second act.
Where this show really delivers in spades however is when all four singers come together. There is something so powerful about this quartet of voices blended in harmony that it instantly lifts the audience up and away from any cares.
They leave the standards and some might say, the best songs til last, to deliver a trio of Sinatra classics that has the audience cheering as they launch from 'That’s Life' to 'New York, New York' to the penultimate number 'My Way' which almost raises the roof.
A fabulous night at the theatre. Very well swung indeed.