Theatre Review: In The Mood leaves you swinging & singing as you’re taken (a)back

In the Mood is a revue show celebrating the music, fashion and dance from the 1940s. Younger audiences may be unfamiliar with the big band tunes and jazz era songs. But for the older crowd, this music is a part of the fabric of their childhoods and the stuff their parents used to listen to. Music evolves and today’s stars are influenced by those from yesteryear; so it’s important we celebrate where we’ve come from with shows like this one.

In the 40s music was a significant beast. It was a time before television and the internet, so people were switched on to the sounds being broadcast from the wireless. The music was also affected by the war effort because these tunes were used to create hope and raise morale. It was also a time when people purchased records, so you could argue that this music meant a lot more to them, unlike most people today who stream theirs.

This revue celebrates the icons of this period like Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra, to name a few. Many of the arrangements for this show were completed by the late Vic Schoen. He had a long and storied career as the conductor and arranger for the Andrews Sisters. The latter feature here through the song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

The set was sparsely decorated with the “In the Mood” logo sitting front and centre above the powerful, 13-piece String of Pearls Orchestra. They were led by musical director and Julliard-trained pianist, Bud Forrest, who has also been the accompanist to the U.S. Air Force’s official chorus. The brass section of the band made a dramatic entrance into the theatre as they played the ebullient “St. Louis March.”

The show varied in tone but in doing so, this made for one emotional journey. A big, toe-tapping number like “Sing, Sing, Sing” made you want to jump out of your seat and dance to the hot-blooded brass. There were also softer, sentimental ballads like “Moonlight Serenade.” In these songs you could pause and think about your grandparents in their younger, halcyon days dancing cheek-to-cheek. This was spirited music and the players gave these tunes quite visceral and faithful renditions.

This production utilises six dancers with choreography by Alex Sanchez, a stalwart of Broadway. Brian Bandura and Sarah Lindsey were fabulous swing dancers who performed acrobatic jitterbugs and jives. They also showed great acting chops as the sailor and nurse reunited at the end of the war and recreated one of the most enduring images of the time.

Narrator and vocalist, Kyle Ivey also did some fine work drawing people into the time and place. He opened with some cheeky remarks about mobile phones not having been invented in the forties and he provided context about the history of the day. This worked for the most part and made for segues that seemed rather seamless, apart from one jarring moment in the second half. The troupe turned things down too soon with some sobering talk about war’s harsh realities. This would have been fine except that it came after a rather bombastic and joyful number.

TJ Lamando looked dapper and had a smooth and silken voice. Laura Lacara and Emilie Bienne also performed with some bright vocals and sweet dance moves. They also looked a lot like the Andrews Sisters. This is in part due to the excellent make-up artistry and the authentic-looking, period costumes by Linda Tomlin.

The most moving aspect of this show was when the group paid tribute to those individuals in the audience who had served in the military. They had these inspiring men and women stand proud and tall as the audience cheered on in support and thanks for their having served their country. The inclusion of “Danny Boy” and “Waltzing Matilda” was a lovely, local touch. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The Glenn Miller song, “In the Mood”’ received a resurgence in the eighties thanks to Jive Bunny. Other people may know the songs because they have featured in cartoons and other pieces of popular culture. It didn’t matter what had enticed you through the door, the String of Pearls orchestra played a strong and consistent two hour set. It was the kind of stuff that warmed your heartstrings as you ventured on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

In the Mood celebrated its silver anniversary as a company and this is the group’s fourth Australian tour. You could say that something tells me they’re onto something good, except that this was by Herman’s Hermits and that was from the sixties. This show ultimately was a highly-entertaining, family-friendly one. It celebrated music that remains relevant and soulful some seven decades on. With lashings of pizazz, smoky jazz and wonderful scats, this production was a joyous, boogie-woogie romp around the wireless. Bring your parents along and prepare to be taken (a)back.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The In the Mood Australian tour continues to Victoria before additional dates in America. For more information and tickets head HERE.

The reviewer attended the performance at the State Theatre in Sydney on 27th October 2018.

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Natalie Salvo

My writing portfolio can be found at: https://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com/

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