Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Three years ago, The Swingaroos payed Sarasota a visit at this same venue, with a program of mostly original songs in a Dixieland flavored style. I loved it so much that I went home and downloaded two groupings of music by the band. I would guess that I have played the 50 minutes of music at least 30 times. The core of the group remains the same: Kimberly Hawkey, vocals; Assaf Gleizner, piano; musical arranger Daniel Glaude, reeds; and Uri Zelig, drums. Steve Morley, trumpet, is now in for a previous player and Nathan Yates Douglas, bass and vocals, is new to the group for this engagement. The sound palette shifts away from the easy southern style jazz to something more suitable for the tunes they feature this time out.
Broadway tunes are about as central to my tastes as could be, so it's no surprise that I love their new program. The band opens with "Tea for Two," which shockingly, wasn't quite recognized by other people at my table. Kimberly Hawkins enters with Rodgers and Hart's "Manhattan" and shifts easily into a Louis Armstrong inspired "Ain't Misbehavin'." Next up is a nice pairing of "Without a Song" and "The Song is You." I've not heard these two together before, but it turns out to be a no-brainer, they go hand in hand beautifully.
Other highlights of the first set include a three-song Rodgers and Hart medley ("I Could Write a Book," Blue Moon" and "Thou Swell"), Nathan channeling Johnny Mercer on one of the finest renditions of "Come Rain or Come Shine" I've ever heard, and the finale, "I Got Rhythm."
Act two bids us come to the "Cabaret," and then, as if still in Sally Bowles mode, Kimberly tells us about "My Man," complete with a second chorus I wasn't familiar with. The band offers "Guys and Dolls" as an instrumental, which surprised me and works quite well. "I Could Have Danced All Night" with a Latin backing and sung by Nathan is the first time I have ever heard a man tackle this tune. Kimberly offers a deeply felt "If I Loved You" before joining Nathan, with an assist from Assaf on Sondheim's "Old Friends." When the next song turns out to be my favorite from Annie Get Your Gun, "Moonshine Lullaby," I'm sort of in heaven, but also feeling a little disjointed because these songs are all so different from each other and don't create a comfortable flow of style.
The faux finale is the title tune, "The Music of the Night" in a more uptempo style than I have ever heard. The song is quintessential Andrew Lloyd Webber, long lined, legato and every single singer (all men) I have ever heard do it have just about duplicated the performance as it is in the show (The Phantom of the Opera), so hearing it by woman and lightly jazzed is a treat. Two encores follow, an original saluting 11 o'clock songs by Kimberly and Assaf, and a request to the audience to "Give My Regards to Broadway."
I have seen a couple of cabaret-type shows recently where I have felt a lack of respect for the music at hand or a lack of knowledge. Thank you Kimberly and The Swingaroos for reversing that trend. The patter between songs is always informative and factually correct. I have the complete feeling that Ms. Hawkey loves this repertoire almost as much as I do.
Presentation is excellent, Ms. Hawkey appears in two different stunning outfits and is gorgeous to look at; the band is casual in act one, a little dressier in act two, completely spiffy.
Looking at tech credits, I see a local name who I haven't seen around in way too long: Catherine Randazzo is listed as Artistic Oversight. Welcome back. The scenic coordinator is Bruce Price, and lighting designer is Caleb Woodring with Bruce Price. Sound design is by Thomas Korp, and the sound and light board operator is Meg Grey.
Here is hoping The Swingaroos don't stay away three years this time. I loved them in their last program and love them just as much this time around. They are here through August 19, and tickets are getting kind of scarce. Get them now.
The Music of the Night, through August 19, 2018, at Florida Studio Theatre, Court Cabaret, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at 941-366-9000 or visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org.