Sunday, August 2, 2015

STAGE REVIEW: "Swing!" - King Center / Melbourne, FL (July 17-19, 2015)

(Photo courtesy of Tim Short, Florida Today)
King Center / Melbourne, FL 
July 17-19, 2015

For enthusiasts here on Florida's Space Coast, it's now become a summertime tradition. And for the fourth consecutive year, Melbourne's King Center for the Performing Arts partnered with The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse to present a world-class Summer Musical Theatre Project production.

A host of ambitious and talented young actors and actresses, along with a dedicated team of musicians, stage techs and coaches all came together recently to re-create the Tony-nominated,  SWING! Held over three days (July 17-19), it proved to be an incredibly successful three-show run — even the Sunday matinee performance that I attended looked to be sold-out. 

Unlike such previous SMTP productions as Oklahoma! and Hairspray, this show offered no plot or dialog. But what it did offer was two hours of non-stop, high-energy singing and dancing recapturing the timeless music and authentic look from America's golden World War II era. And speaking of the show's iconic music, the full ONSTAGE live band added significant "WOW" factor — major kudos to Orchestra Conductor and keyboardist, Daniel Klintworth.

Although there were no starring roles, the entire troupe delivered superb star-caliber performances. In fact, the overall production was simply spectacular. But at the certain risk of leaving out many top-notch performances, I did manage to scribble down a few noteworthy highlights...

The cast of SWING!
(Photo courtesy of Tim Short, Florida Today)
Possessing undeniable angelic vocal ability, Ashley Secrest offered a delicate, yet engaging rendition of "Skylark," while singers, Katie Davis, Kelly DeKlerk, Kellie Lynn Jensen, Victoria Narvaez, Ali Spinelli and Secrest all delivered "G.I. Jive" famously. Other highlights included Davis' performance on "The Blues in the Night" and the talented Emily Deruelle on "Stompin' at the Savoy."

SWING! also featured more than a few dynamic duets. Hannah Crytzer and Nathaniel Knepper-Quijano were delightful to hear and watch on "Dancers in Love," while Narvaez and John Dudley proved to be an outstanding combo on "All of Me."

Hope Goodman and Noah Southwick came together to create another magical moment on "Two and Four" a number in which Goodman delivered what was for me, THE vocal highlight of the show.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge the selfless dedication of Executive Producer Steve Janicki, Artistic Director Dr. Anastacia Hawkins-Smith and Theatre for Youth Director Karen Wilson. Bravo!

Despite what I'm sure was an amazing experience for the actors, and what I know first-hand was a first-class experience for the audience, the primary pay-off of the Summer Musical Theatre Project is always the all-important education factor. What the cast and crew learn about the performing arts and how the project prepares them for potential industry careers, is immeasurable. But regardless of whether or not they pursue the arts professionally in the future, I'm sure that none of these young people will ever forget the magical summers performing onstage at The King Center.

-Christopher Long
(August 2015)

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  1. My sister just stumbled on your review. Ashley Secrest is my daughter. Just wanted to say thank you for making her weekend! Is there any way to get some kind of official copy of this review?

    1. Hi Laurie!

      Karen Wilson should be able to furnish you with a PDF copy of the review.

      Thanks for stopping by -- and much continued success to Ashley.