Cabaret Festival

Cabaret Festival Review: Swing On This : 10th Anniversary

Top quality joy delivered with effortless style

Top quality joy delivered with effortless style

Presented by: The Little Red Company and Good Egg Creative
Reviewed: 14 June 2024

Four performers and 9 musicians do 15 numbers which produce a million happy memories for the audience, after just over an hour of Swing On This. I like the math.

This big-band swing supergroup rarely convenes; its four members are usually very busy pursuing their individual (and very successful) careers. However, ten years ago, they formed to perform at the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Today, three of that original foursome remain – Luke Kennedy, Matt G. Lee and Ben Mingay. The missing member, the wondrous Michael Falzon (1972 – 2020) is currently gigging in another dimension.  His memory is beautifully recalled during the show. Never replacing, but adding his own special spice to the quartet, is new boy Bert LaBonté.

Eight good Adelaide musicians (guitar, acoustic bass, drums, two trumpets, trombone, two saxophones) are led by Musical Director Craig Schneider from the piano/keyboard. Jazz pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger and educator, Schneider is the musical backbone of this show. Arrangements are tight, delightful and novel. Harmonies are neat and never obscure the lyric. Schneider knows what he’s doing. His blistering piano solos pour fuel on the already smouldering 9-piece Little Big Band. It says “swing” on the tin, and that’s precisely what they give us.

All four men are suit-and-tied, in styles suitable to each. Ben Mingay (actor/singer) sports an on-trend topknot. Well-known from his time with The Voice Australia and The Ten Tenors, actor/singer Luke Kennedy goes for a cravat rather than a traditional tie. Actor/singer Bert LaBonté’s double-breasted suit is cleverly styled. Matt G. Lee is the last word in natty, as befits this actor, singer, dancer and choreographer. Together they tackle a wide range of swing favourites, beginning with a gorgeously sleazy Minnie The Moocher and finishing with a triumphal encore of New York, New York.  In between, familiar swing numbers are playfully tweaked.  There’s a hilarious topical rewrite of What A Swell Party This Is, an elegant standout duet from Mingay and Kennedy, singing One For My Baby to a stripped-back solo piano accompaniment with barely a wisp of sax, and a pumping double-time arrangement of  Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

Some material which did not start out in life as swing is given the Swing On This treatment. Would you expect to hear Five Hundred Miles, that old Proclaimers anthem?  Or Maniac from Flashdance?  Or a rock medley of INXS, Crowded House and John Farnham songs?  And, thanks to Schneider’s skill and these four amazing performers’ energy and charm, they swing!

Solos spotlight the individual brilliance and expertise of each. Standouts were LaBonté’s Let’s Get It On, with fabulous vocal flexibility, blues licks and rich R’n’B quality, and the exquisite Mister Bojangles of Matt G. Lee, who sang, acted and tap-danced with sensitivity and joyful energy.  But it’s the four men together who make such a triumph of the evening. As a team, they’re chatty, relaxed and informal, and their glorious voices put 500 people at their ease for over an hour and then on their feet at the end.

Bravo, gentlemen!

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Photo credit: Claudio Raschella

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: 14 – 15 June, 2024
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: $84 – $89

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