BWW Review: THE SWINGAROOS: HOLLYWOOD SERENADE at Florida Studio Theatre
The dynamic swing-era band, The Swingaroos, is making their triumphant return from New York to Sarasota at The Florida Studio Theatre's Court Cabaret. This year's theme is Hollywood Serenade. In their typical styling, bandleader Kimberly Hawkey weaves in clever dialogue between songs that paint a picture of that era and is full of interesting facts, fun diatribe between band members and lively arrangements.
Hawkey states, "I wanted to capture the thrill that someone in the 1940s would have felt when they saw their favorite popular music stars on the big screen. Audiences were often seeing stars like Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa for the first time in the movies, even though they had heard hours of their music on the radio. The song choices will underscore what was going on in America at that time. The performers of Hollywood were hip, humorous and classy and were almost always multi-talented. We're going to channel these elements and build an entertaining evening worthy of the "Hollywood" name."
And channel they did. Band members Philip Ambuel on stand up bass, Assaf Gleizner, (music director and piano), Steve Morley on trumpet, Marty Peters on sax, flute and clarinet, and Uri Zelig on percussion took us back to the beat and rhythms of the big band era, reminiscent of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Louis Prima, Marty Shaw, and Cab Calloway. The audience was treated to songs such as "In the Mood", "Take the A Train", "Hooray for Hollywood", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "At Last," "Minnie the Moocher", "Stormy Weather", and "You Made Me Love You", to name a few.
Miss Hawkey has the pipes to pull off quite a vocal range and the exuberance in her story telling that makes the journey with the Swingaroos an exciting walk down Memory Lane. In the first act she wore a beautiful vintage yellow dress that was flattering, with a modest neckline, fitted waist, and a knee-length cut. Act ll brought her out in a more sophisticated black and white full-length gown that would have caught the attention of Great Gatsby. Hawkey surprised us during "Hurray for Hollywood" by playing the banjo. She is delightful to watch, easily morphing from fun and playful to sultry and sassy.
Gleizner is dapper in his fitted suit and fedora. The man can tickle some ivories and you can tell he loves his craft by the constant smile on his face and his father-like attentive guiding of the band. Morley pulled out all the stops using mutes to change the sound of his trumpet, lowering the volume and altering the timbre, just like back in the day. Zelig on percussion also had some throwback sounds in his repertoire - rim taps, brushes on the snare, and electrifying solos. Ahh, the good 'ole days. Newbies to the group this year were bassist Philip Ambuel who had the best hair, and Marty Peters who covered several woodwinds with proficiently. Both men displayed their comfort with the band - you would never know they were newcomers. Ambuel looked slick with a nice suit and had quick and nimble digits to pluck the best sounds out of his beautiful upright bass. Peters brought the most versatility to the show, covering several woodwinds as well as a fabulous voice that paired well with Hawkey, and was ripe for solos as well.
Together this is a highly talented and creative group of performers that bring good music and great times to their audiences. Sarasotans can beat the summer heat with some cool swing - cabaret-style. This show is worthy of the "Hollywood" name. And the "Sarasota" name. Because after all, we're a pretty savvy bunch here too. And we like "our" Swingaroos.
The Swingaroos are lighting up the stage at Florida Studio Theatre for their 6Th Summer Cabaret Series. Performances are scheduled through August 30, 2019. For more information on FST visit www.floridastudiotheatre.org. For more information on The Swingaroos visit www.theswingaroos.com.