Photos – Darren Thomas
Smokey blue ambience greets us as we filter through the doors into the Concert Hall at Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the stage set-up reminiscent of those fabulous venues/times when music, entertainment and social-life came glove-in-hand with cool clubs where you could dine, dance, absorb the music and be part of the scene. Big bands were de rigueur, and dancing ‘til the wee hours of the morning part of the whole... OK, there may not have been room to dance on Saturday night, but judging by the audience and the head-bopping, there were many who would have climbed over granny to get to the dance floor.
“It’s a new day... and I’m feeling good...” Like four male strippers with real charismatic style, Ben Mingay, Michael Falzon, Luke Kennedy and Rob Mills ‘raunched’ onto the stage with their individual dynamic, slamming the audience with pure talent. With snappee-repartee and “Rat-Pack” enthusiasm, they introduced themselves as “Australians in synch”, promising “we’re here to swing and hit the booze, Oz style, and to take the piss...” They certainly kept up their end of the bargain! “No training, no discipline” (ha ha, as if) these leading men were tantamount to bickering boys on stage, letting the audience in on their antics and keeping it up until the sweet finale. The faultless eighteen-piece ‘Swing on This’ big band soaring to musical heights with an uncanny choice of tunes, ranging from quintessential swing that we all know and love, to Proclaimers and Oasis, and stuff you couldn’t possibly imagine would be swing-able. Take a bow Craig Schneider, Musical Director (he even joined in on one of the choreographed dance deals, wowing the audience even more)!
Harmonies, double-dose singing (the couplings were magical); individual-shining and mood-provoking sexy tenor sax, coupled with liquid piano, joining the full band, lifting the Concert Hall into the heavens; this is what an evening out is supposed to be!
“It’s quarter to three, there’s no-one in the place except you and me, so set ‘em up Joe...” duet with Michael Falzon (We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages) and Luke Kennedy (The Voice, The Ten Tenors) brought tears to my eyes, bringing back memories of singing this tune with my mum, every time it hit quarter to three... Ben Mingay (Wonderland, House of Bond) calling for audience participation – who would not respond to Ben MIngay, the tower of talent? The audience, as varied as the songs, were rapt.
As if “Australia’s Leading Men of Stage and Screen” (with the 18-piece Swing on This big band) wasn’t enough, the audience were in for another surprise. Enter Rhonda Burchmore, introduced as, “one little Rhonda and so many men”. Nothing little about Ms Burchmore, with her inimitable presence, poise and personality, saying, “Delicious... a bit of a cougar special...” As each tune rolled out, surrounded by laughs, antics and dance routines (actors the lot of them, what can I say??) the memory flood from so many beautiful, haunting melodies came over me, and when they delivered Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’, I swooned. Rob Mills (Wicked, Grease) wowed us with ‘Mr Bojangles’: Mills is a laugh-a-minute, wondering if, “it might be too much talent for one song.” There are a lot of ‘ba-boom’ moments, classical delivery guaranteeing maximum laugh-ability.
Swing music is a fun-generator, all inclusive and addictive – you listen to one tune and you beg for more.
More, you want more? Enter the “mini-me’s” with four “junior swells” tap dancing all over the shop. This just creates more opportunity for gags and camaraderie with, “does anyone speak tap?” bringing the house down, whilst these young-up-and-comings, “sourced from Queensland, would you believe?” tapped out their voice, with mentor-counterparts admitting this is, “Swing On This, fun-size”. Young talent, once again, has a chance to flourish with the ‘tap-off’, the big band on steroids and the audience lapping up every morsel.
Swung, sealed and delivered, this is a tight show on every level, with powerful delivery and timing being everything! Standing ovation, audience SCREAMING for MORE: The record shows, they took the blows, and did it their way... and is there any other way? I very much doubt it.
QPAC in association with Good Egg Creative and Asia Theatricals presents
Swing on This
Musical Direction Craig Schneider
Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane
Date: 7 January 2017 (2.00pm and 8.00pm)
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246