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Review: Swing on This at The Dunstan Playhouse

Review by Lisa Lanzi

Originally choreographed and directed by Christopher Horsey, the unutterably suave Swing On This first formed for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival back in 2014, returning this year for their 10th anniversary.  

The Playhouse stage looks very 40s with the ruched and ruffled back curtain, raised band platforms, and to one side a stylish couch, occasional table plus armchair.  The charm of this cabaret offering lies in the warm, casual approach the four performers adopt as they banter with each other, and the audience.  Ben Mingay, Ben G Lee, Luke Kennedy, and newest recruit Bert LaBonté, all adorned in stylish individualised suits with ties or cravat, convey the epitome of professionalism; their talent too is prodigious, both individually and as a cohesive group, but gives an impression of ease that only comes after many years spent honing their skillsets.

Beginning with the band playing a rousing ‘Minnie The Moocher’ the four men enter one by one to sing with an invitation for the audience to join in on the familiar scat refrains, “Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi” etcetera.  Very fine Adelaide musicians appear in the 8 piece band (I would love to credit them if I could find the information) led by Musical Director Craig Schneider on piano and featuring in a number of virtuosic solos, including the band’s standout instrumental ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’.  Several swing standards are included with various of the stars singing lead while the others add sumptuous harmonies.  With a generous amount of ironic chat ‘What A Swell Party This Is’ allowed the four to reminisce / brag about their shared histories and individual accomplishments in between verses.

Ben Mingay sang a passionate, deep-voiced ‘Ain't That A Kick In The Head’ channelling a little Dean Martin in the mix after which Luke Kennedy provided serious Sinatra vibes in ‘I've Got You Under My Skin’.  After some slightly risqué chitchat about sex appeal and meeting up in the bar later (with consent “of course”) Bert LaBonté dazzled with Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, inspiring a decent amount of swooning from the audience.  With Matt G Lee in the cast some tap dance is obligatory and what better song for the purpose than another Rat Pack contribution, ‘Mr Bojangles’.  Lee thrilled with both his dance moves and his sensitive rendition as he played with the space and wove in and out of a lonely spot lit circle centre stage.

Taking advantage of the arranging brilliance provided by Craig Schneider a few contemporary pop songs followed with unexpected but glorious shifts to swing syncopation.  All four men sang and grooved to ‘Maniac’ (from Fame the movie) in a slower, swung tempo.  Similarly The Proclaimers’ ‘500 Miles’ got the swing treatment as did a medley of other pop songs from Crowded House, John Farnham and INXS.  All the while, the irrepressible energy, humour, and sass from Mingay, Lee, Kennedy and LaBonté never disappointed.

Mingay provided a beautiful, stripped back version of Sinatra’s ‘One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)’ joined only by piano and a hint of saxophone, then Kennedy providing some exquisite harmony.  LaBonté and Lee paired up for ‘Mac The Knife’, a big hit with the audience around me, inspiring some reasonable, not too intrusive singing along.  Toward the end of the show a more up-tempo ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore’ was dedicated to the wonderful artist and original member Michael Falzon who sadly passed in 2020, which segued into a grand and gutsy ‘That’s Life’.

Swing On This really is the complete package and never stops giving throughout the entire seventy minutes.  The big finish was ‘New York New York’ followed by a well-deserved standing ovation.  As much as I relish encounters with new, edgy theatrical and cross-artform works, it was a joy to sit back, tap my feet and bask in an offering that is pure entertainment then leave smiling, albeit with a few ‘earworms’ rattling around in my brain.

Image Supplied


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