Two years after its debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Swing On This finally takes to the stage for a full show in Sydney at the Theatre Royal.
Comprised of four of Australia’s leading musical theatre stars – Michael Falzon (We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages), Luke Kennedy (The Voice, The Ten Tenors), Rob Mills (Ghost The Musical, Grease, Legally Blonde) and Ben Mingay (Wonderland, Pack to the Rafters) – Swing is a delightful mix of classics, popular songs, some smooth dancing and tounge-in-cheek banter.
Directed and choreographed by Chris Horsey (who made a special and wonderful guest appearance with this tap shoes to accompany Mills during ‘Mr Bojanges’), with musical direction from Isaac Hayward and accompanied by the Sydney Jazz Orchestra, the four leads were on stage during each other’s performances, sitting around a bar and drinking (wondering how much of it was real alcohol), which gave the performance a real comfortable and relaxed feeling.
The fact the audience was allowed to take pictures and videos was also a nice touch. It was like we were invited to join these gentlemen at an after-party in a very big living room, especially with some of the banter during and between the songs (e.g. Mingay constantly saying Falzon’s last name wrong.)
The show takes us through all of the swing classics, which I think, due to artists like Michael Buble and Robbie Williams, a lot more of us are familiar with than might have previously been. From ‘What a Swell Party’ (all four, with added jokes) to ‘Have You Met Miss Jones (Kennedy)’ to ‘Me and My Shadow’ (Mills and Kennedy) to ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?’ (Mingay) and ‘Under My Skin’ (Falzon), all four leads took turns at showing why this show – originally conceived as a one-off – remains in demand all across the country.
Falzon and his creative team have constructed an extremely solid show that, even with changing cast members (Mills joined in 2015 as a fifth member and replacement for Matt Lee in this iteration), flows extremely well, allows for guest performances, highlights each individual’s vocal tones and style, and reminds the audience of the incredible wealth of talent we have in Australia.
I particularly enjoyed the popular songs with a swing twist. If you never thought Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ could be sung swing style, then Mingay is ready to prove you wrong (with some diverse ‘jump’ moves from Mills, Kennedy and Falzon). The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’ was extremely popular with the audience and highly entertaining also. The Australian mash-up of ‘New Sensation’, ‘Chocolate Cake’ and ‘Pressure Down’ is unique to this show and a real treat.
Prinnie Stevens (The Voice, Thriller – Live) bought the glamour to the stage with her performances of ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, ‘Unforgettable’ and ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ (I did wonder for a second if I myself was going crazy during this song, given my current love affair with We Will Rock You).
But perhaps one of the show’s most charming numbers was the ‘mini-me’s’. Four young and extremely talented tap performers, chosen by Falzon and Horsey, were given a fantastic opportunity be part of this show. They interacted so well with their chosen ‘big-me’ and were just a joy to watch. Keep an eye out for Franco Lastra, Jacob Licastro, Kai Taylor and John Vallentine.
Ending with some of the biggest swing songs – ‘That’s Life’, ‘New York, New York’ and ‘My Way’ – Swing On This is not only a show for the ages, but a show for all ages. It is extremely difficult to pin these sought-after performers down long enough for rehearsals and shows, so if you do get a chance to see them, I highly recommend it. Hopefully there will be a time soon for a national tour!