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Get In the “Swing!” Mood at the Carnegie

Review by Laurel Humes of “Swing!”: Carnegie Theatre

The Carnegie has “Swing!” – an exuberant, nostalgic, song-and-dance show that revisits the swing era of jazz in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The show, with no spoken dialogue, consists of 24 songs performed by a talented cast of 10 singers and dancers. It is briskly directed by Tracey Bonner, who also choreographed. 

The show takes its name from the opening number: “It Don’t Mean a Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” lyrics by Irving Mills, music by Duke Ellington. From there, we’re off, with songs by such other well-known composers and writers as Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Johnny Mercer.

In an all-around terrific cast, a standout is Bethany Xan Jeffery, who shows her vocal and acting skills in both comedic novelty numbers and plaintive solos. She and the strong-voiced R. DeAndre Smith share “Bli Blip,” a humorous song certainly made more complicated by its scat singing/vocal improvision component.

And Jeffery nearly brought down the house opening night with her wry, then furious rendition of “Blues in the Night.”

Featured singer Sara Viola’s talents are showcased in a beautiful version of “Skylark,” then in “Cry Me a River,” a duet with trombonist Zach Granger, who comes off the bandstand to join her center stage.

The 8-musician band (The RL Little Big Band), led by Randy Linville, plays from the stage. The band is a vital part of the cast and evokes the time of the Big Bands and fancy nightclubs.

A huge part of “Swing!” is the dancing, of course. While all cast members dance, the workload is mostly borne by the younger ones (four from Northern Kentucky University!). The high-energy dance numbers are full of lifts, twirls and acrobatics that several times brought gasps and appreciative applause from the audience.

The dancers are Franchesca Montazemi, Grace Vetter, Trase Millburn, Collin Newton, Renee Stoltzfus and John Woll (also a featured singer).

An Act 2 highlight is a brief dance contest that actually attracted some audience volunteers (I don’t think they were ringers!), who braved the stage despite watching the “pros” for 90 minutes.

“Swing!” is toe-tapping fun and pure enjoyment. The show continues weekends through April 14. Call 859-957-1940 for tickets.