Muskoka To-DAILY

Don’t wait, rush out and see Swing! at the Gravenhurst Opera House ~ only two more nights Thurs., Fri. Aug. 24-25

Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — The only things Swing! is missing are champagne bubbles and Lawrence Welk.

Swing! is non-stop music and fun you won't want to miss, says Mark Clairmont.

Swing! is non-stop music and fun you shouldn’t miss, says Mark Clairmont.

If you’ve missed the summer’s best show at the Gravenhurst Opera House, rush out and catch one of the final two nights, Thursday or Friday (Aug. 24-25).

It’s 90 minutes of high octane Big Band song and dance routines.

Non-stop fun and entertainment that has left audiences exhausted watching the dozen performers — six great singers, actors and dancers backed up by a stage band that doesn’t miss a beat and doesn’t take a rest.

If you were around TV in the ’50s and ’60s — and even if you weren’t and you’re just a theatre lover — this review is for you.

From comedy to cartwheels, Greg Gibson and the Gravenhurst Opera House Swing Band and the talented dancers they accompany are a musical treat start to finish.

Over the course of 54 numbers, the cast of Jak Baradell, Debbie Collins, Kevin Forestell, Heather McGuigan, Ian Simpson and Shawna van Omme rip and romp through more like 75 identifiable tunes — some just a few bars, but equally satisfying in their capable hands, feet and voices.

Swing! is the genius of two of Canada’s greatest musical talents — Alan Lund and Howard Cable, both Order of Canada members sadly gone now.

A funny Spike Lee conga number is among the 54 numbers the 12-piece song and dance band perform in Swing!

A funny Spike Lee conga number is among the 54 numbers the 12-piece song and dance band perform in Swing!

But not forgotten.

Opera House artistic director Dave Campbell and manager of arts and culture Krista Storey revived Lund and Cable’s Charlottetown Festival hit, with 40 performances that combined timeless tunes that are never tiresome and are always embraceable on stage.

It’s summer theatre at its lushest, wholesome best, in a ballroom setting with wonderful costumes and an ambiance that’s in the present.

Some facial mics for some of the solo parts, more comedy and a deep-voiced announcer to hail the numbers and keep the plates spinning would be about the only suggestions here.

But other than that, with a great stage band of Jeff Plumbley on trumpet, Richard Lamoueux, of Bracebridge, on reeds, and Caius Howlett on the drums leading the way, Swing! is a summer showstopper. Cole Jodouin on bass (a Humber music student starting next week), Rick Pauze on trombone (director of the famed Barrie Concert Band) and Mooney on piano round out this fine small stage band, musically directed by Greg Gibson (keyboards).

Standout numbers in the band include Plumbley’s muted “Sugar Blues” (Clive McCoy) and his beautiful ballad playing on Al Jolson’s “You Made Me Love You,” (which warranted him a kiss after by one of the women; Lamoureux on the licorice stick with Benny Goodman’s well done “Begin the Beguine,” and Howlett’s masterful floor tom, tom solo on “Sing, Sing, Sing,” another Goodman hit.

The latter was particularly appreciated by his proud papa, Bob, of Baltimore, Ont, a fellow percussionist with his son in nearby Cobourg with Her Majesty’s Royal Marine Association Band of Ontario and where a young Caisus began playing drums at age four. The Humber music student is already signed up to play nexd summer on Princess Cruise Lines ships. Mama bear will be in town for Friday’s finale.

Among the singers and dancers, who were all very good, seasoned Ontario actors, was one incredible song by McGuigan, in a gorgeous shimmering gold dress, who was cut short by some catchy, but less memorable love song pitches, about a Cement Mixer. She did, however, hit a high C that bounced off the chandeliers in the house.

Together, the ensemble cast is tremendous in their singing, dancing and choreography.

Together, the ensemble cast is tremendously talented in their singing, dancing and choreography.

Overall, however, the sextet’s choreography was slick, especially the close order drill marches in “Boogie Woogie Boy,” and in a dinner scene with the place settings coming and disappearing with the aplomb of a Marcel Marceaux, and a funny Spike Lee calypso song.

A couple of tricky tap routines, especially the one ending the first half, and one near the end of the second act, were whirlwinds that left the audience Wednesday afternoon breathless at their intricate and unstoppable rhythmic routines.

If you go — and you’d be sorry if you didn’t — also watch and listen for “It’s Wonderful,” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” to end the first half.

Glenn Miller’s “Tuxedo Junction” opens act two. And the Big Band medley includes a couple of Duke Ellington’s trademark piano bars from Gibson, followed by a great rendition of crooner Bing Crosby’s version of “That’s Jazz.”

Dave Campbell and company got a thumbs up from Blanche Lund at the July 19 opening.

Artistic director Dave Campbell and company got a thumbs up from Blanche Lund at the July 19 opening.

The three female leads do supreme justice to the Andrews Sisters and their male counterparts sound just like the Ink Spots from the riser behind the band.

The ensemble’s Lindy Hop is a particular highlight the keeps the band cookin’.

Swing! moves along quickly and enjoyably, taking you on a trip down memory lane, when swing was king.

And when for music “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

Gerry Rapson, who came in from Wood Lake, loved the show.

“I remember all the novelty songs,” she said at intermission. “I loved it.

“It was my favourite time of life.”

Indeed, for a tour bus group aptly named ‘Time of Your Life,’ Swing! was more than memorable.

Swing! in Muskoka is show that Lund and Cable (who briefly lived in Muskoka around the early 1970s when he was the organist at the Anglican Church and helped write the Skokie Song for the Muskoka Winter Carnival in 1971) would admire and appreciate.

Indeed, Blanche Lund who teamed up early on with Alan as Canada’s premiere dance couple and who helped launch the original Swing! review, certainly did.

The 95-year-old gave it two thumbs up at the July 19 opening, a week before her 96th birthday.

Don’t wait that long to see Swing!

You only have two more nights.

You won’t be sorry you did.

Heather McGuigan had temptuously the hands-down best song cut short in a gorgeous, glowing gold gown.

Heather McGuigan had temptuously the hands-down best song cut short in a gorgeous, glowing gold gown.


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