Swing Essay, Research Paper

Drama 03 Professor Giebel


I went to go see the show ” Swing ” at the St. James Theatre on Wednesday November 30, 2000. The St. James Theatre was located next to the Helen Hayes Theatre and across the street from The Majestic Theatre. I saw the 8pm show with my friends Gina and Lindsay. We got the tickets the night of the performance at the ticket booth, which was located in the left of the lobby as soon as I walked in. The lobby had a white floor and had sufficient space. I thought that the lobby would be bigger, this being a Broadway theater in all. The doors outside that led inside the lobby were made of glass with metal handles and borders.

After we obtained the tickets, we gave them to an attendant dressed in civilian clothing and after that we went through the concession side of the lobby which was the link between the lobby and the auditorium itself. There, the floor was covered in a red rug with golden designs. We were then led up a curved stairwell by an usher and into our seats. The rug pattern design was embroiled in the auditorium seating and floor as well.

I found the seats a bit tight, but nevertheless, comfortable. We had tickets for the balcony, but it was closed so we were moved up closer to the stage. So in the end, we got better seats. I could see the stage flawlessly.

The stage impressed me. With every scene and musical number, the stage would morph to give the show a certain pinnace. Always on stage was the jazz/swing band. They were the element that tied the show together. At times, the area where the band was playing would move forward while the band kept playing. The stage was never the same. There was always a new aspect. I was never bored. It kept my attention going because it was always different. Even with certain scenes which were continuations of previous scenes, new props were brought, different lighting would be used and everyone on stage was always happy.

I was surprised throughout the show. I didn’t know I was going to have so much fun and be massively entertained during it. The dancing was spectacular. The dancers and choreography were all very good. There was this performer, Everett Bradley, who I thought stood out among the cast. He was funny and multitalented. In a scene called ” Throw That Girl Around “, he was playing the bongos, singing, dancing, and cheering the other performers on simultaneously. Then in a later scene, called ” Take Me back to Tulsa “, his character found a cowboy hat and when he put it on he did a boogie oogie woogie that had me laughing hysterically.

I didn’t really want to see this show at first. I originally wanted to see Gore Vidal’s ” The Best Man “. But, I saw it with an open mind and liked it a lot. It was better than my expectations. I thought it would just be about swing dancing, but there was more to it. I was entertained the whole time. Every scene had a new and different aspect sprinkled in happiness. Everyone on stage was having fun and so was I. I got into it right away till the very end. It was very lively throughout. After the show, I was amazed on how much I enjoyed myself, and I strongly recommended this show to others who are looking for a jiving time.

The audience was composed of different people. The age ranged from students on to older people. I didn’t see any kids nor teenagers. The audience was very mature. There were mostly people in their 50’s on. There was also a lot of ethnic diversity, especially in the Asian community. There were more women than men there as well. They all seemed happy and laughed at all of the funny parts and were in awe of the incredible dancing. It was a show that could appeal to the audience because it was almost circus-like.

The overall mood of the play was light and happy. Everyone on stage was having fun and it rubbed off on the audience. There was some romance segments thrown in here and there, but it gave the audience a break from all the spectacles that went on in other scenes. Most had humor and some were just emotionally appealing. When the performers were dancing on stage, it was hard sometimes to focus on a particular aspect because there so much going on. To put it simply, it was eye candy.

I found the highlight of the show during one of the last scenes. It was called, ” Bill’s Bounce “. In this scene, two male dancers came up on stage and danced. Then from the stage entrances, two female dancers came out supported by wires gliding through the air and dancing with their males counterparts at the same time. The girls bounced really high and all over the stage and air back and forth. It was a dance that combined gravity and antigravity simultaneously. It was an amazing sight to watch. I had no idea that the show would lead to something like that so I was yet again surprised.

The main idea of ” Swing “, is that swinging is everywhere. Swinging can be in dancing or in swingers. Swing has been around since the 1930’s and it is a way of life. It brings happiness to those who are dancing, those who are watching it, and the band playing the music. Swing is also very colorful and has it own images. It brings people together because it shows a good time to all who participate in it. This was constant through out the entire show in every single aspect. For example, there was this scene called, ” I’m Going to Love You Tonight “. This was a war time scene, during WW2, where two soldiers, male and female, flirt and then fall to deep seduction. The male has a sweetheart back home and his female target finds out. Then he begins to seduce her by telling her that he is going to love her tonight. Before the scene is over, she is captivated under his spell along with the audience.

This was a presentational show because all it did was represent swing in different situations. The whole show presents a blatant straight show full of lively and jively swing music and lots of dancing which doesn’t include nor suggest a plot. Even the basic title of the show presents the main idea.

The overall concept of the show was that swing makes people feel happy whether they are dancing, watching, or playing in the band. It welcomes all with open arms. Swing is a culture phenomenon of its own and has very dazzling moves that never lets your guard down. The space of the stage enhances this point because there was always something entertaining going on stage. At points it would be hard to keep focus on one thing, so my eyes could wander the stage but never wander off. The band was always on stage and they were he element that tied the show together because the fundamentals of swing is rooted on the music which is brought to life by the band. The dancers used whatever space they had to do their swinging dances. They danced back and forth nonstop. One some one exited, someone else entered. The stage was never naked, except when the lights faded out to end the previous scene and to introduce the next. Even the air above the stage was used like in the scene, ” Bill’s Bounce “. The availability of the space also allowed for all the characters to be featured on stage dancing simultaneously multiple times during the show. When some scenes required limited space, a see through screen would be laid in front of the band or the band stage platform would move forward closer to the audience.

The actors made their characters believable. Swing is supposed to be happy and so was everyone on stage. In the scene, ” Dancers in Love “, there is a young woman who falls in love with an old man. She makes him dance with him, even though he is an old man. She makes him throw her in the air as well as carry her in his arms, even though he tells her he can’t. The point is the actor who plays the old man, Keith Lamelle Thomas, does a convincing job playing the old man. He grunts out loud. He falls on the floor in a slapstick way. I believe that he is true pain and that he is dancing against his will, but he loves swing so much that he can’t pass on the chance. He apparently used to be a great dancer and hadn’t danced in a while, so the girl helped him find his swing. He got back his swing because he never lost it in the first place. It was always lurking within him. Another performer, Everett Bradley, got so into his characters and music that I just wished I was feeling what he was feeling at points. His performance was so flawless that every time he was on stage, he was without a doubt the greatest presence. Even when he was singing with three others on stage along with the swing band, while the dancers danced, his stage presence was the most notable because I could tell that he was giving his heart and soul.

The character relationships were well defined because the relationships were simple. It was easy to tell apart people from each other because each performer associated their own style with their characters. Plus the same dance teams would stick together in the scenes. For example, when performer showed up on stage Jennifer Schrader so would J.C. Montgomery and they would do their thing. The relationships were all very obvious. They all got along because there was such a positive mood on the stage. Everyone smiled at each other and kept a lively and animated mood, that it rubbed off on me. It was all fun from beginning to end. The dancing left a great effect and impression on me and on the performers themselves because they cheered each other on. They performed so skillfully and meticulously, that it made what they did look easy to do. There was charisma within the performers that lasted throughout the performance. There was no one who tried to snub the spotlight. It was an ensemble team effort that looked so smooth and natural.

The setting for the play was effective. The setting was as lively as the performers. It kept changing from scene to scene which made the show enhance its timelessness by switching from country western to war time era to high jinx acrobatics. The on stage changes gave the show a high level of creativity and character. The stage was in a sense a character itself. The whole thing jumped out with jiving energy which also helped set the tone of the show. Everything was always perfectly set and very colorful and lively which stressed out the show’s main idea.

The lighting and costumes changed with the setting. They were colorful and vivid. The lighting moved the show at a faster pace because it was the link and the break between the scenes by establishing the mood and idea. Swing is happy, colorful, lively, and vivid. The lighting and costumes established all these elements.

The costumes were effective because they also signified the scene change in the show. It helped to distinguish characters from one another. The costumes were authentic and were embellished by the lighting. They were beautiful and made the performers become more in touch with their multiple characters. The costumes also fitted the characters appropriately in that it made it easier for them to have smoother transitions to become more than one character.

The music strengthened the ensemble. It was the only theatrical link that tied the scenes together. The music moved the show forward and set the overall mood and tone. The music was swing but with elements of jazz, country western, Latin and pop. It was a mix of classic and new songs. It gave the show the heartbeat and the rhythm that the dancers needed to do their electric moves. The show was a brilliant musical extravaganza. The band played the music and in certain scenes, the four main performers would sing the songs as the rest of them danced.

I really had a blast watching this show. It was very lively, creative, and colorful. I was never bored once because there was always so much going on stage. All of the performers did a great job and kept my interest. The scenes never lost its pace, but rather kept gaining more momentum as it went on. The show was very humorous, happy, and lighthearted. The stage direction and choreography were superb. They never let my guard down. Every scene something new and wild would happen. It was flashy and over the top and those are the kind of elements that elevate my genuine interest.

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