Hepcat Put Your Glad Rags On, SWING! Comes to Hagerstown

by Nathan Oravec

Hereís the skinny. On December 3, the Original Broadway Musical, Swing!, will play the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown as part of the 2002-2003 Broadway at the Maryland Series. From jive to the jitterbug, cats to canaries, Swing! is an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of the sensation that swept the nation throughout the 30s and 40s.

Hepcat Chase Steele Greye recently talked to the Picket News about cutting the rug in Washington County.

* Tell me about Swing!

Itís a show that combines all of the components of swing - ranging from country, R&B, Latin, and Jive. It doesnít take the regular book format - it doesnít tell a straight story. Itís a lot of little vignettes that take you through the history of the swing style. It was music that brought together a more segregated time - [people] dancing together that werenít supposed to be. In that way, itís a very powerful show.

* What role do you play?
Iím one of the lead singers - there are four altogether, two male and two female jazz singers. Iíve been with the show for a year and a half now. This is the third national tour. I was with it last year for the second tour as an understudy for one of the leads - and now, this year, I am one.

* How big is the show overall?
We have thirty some odd people. Singers, dancers... We have a great band - drums, bass, guitar.

* What drew you to the show?
I was in New York, looking for musicals that would be up my alley. [Iíve always had an interest in jazz music], so when I saw the ad for Swing!, it sounded like something that was really up my alley.

* How and when did you first become interested in swing?
When I was younger, my natural father always had jazz music playing in the house and the car. I didnít like it at first... but over the years, it kind of got inside me. The style started to open up in side my head. I think of it like someone who is growing up in a Spanish-speaking home - it soon became a component of my repertoire. So it was very fitting, when I was trying out for shows like Rent and others, that Swing! came along. This one just fell out of nowhere. It seemed like it was meant to be.

* What went into putting this show together?
Rehearsals lasted for two months. Not all of the dancers and singers came from a swing [or jazz] background. Some really had to spend a lot of time learning the style and technique of swing. We tried to make it as authentic as possible. A lot of people donít realize - when they see the show - just how much work went into it. Itís really come together tightly.

* When did the tour begin?
The third national tour began in September and will end sometime in late June or early July. During the second tour we traveled to Japan to perform, and there are talks of maybe doing that again. So, by the time weíve finished - it will almost be a complete year.

* How has that experience been?
The people that I work with are very talented. Weíve been going from city to city - and it really forces you to be on top of your game. We do shows nearly every day. You learn a lot about yourself and what you can handle. You really have to love it - because youíre completely inundated with it every day. I love it. Thereís nothing that makes me happier. That answer will vary from person to person, but itís been an amazing experience.

* How have smaller theaters and venues reacted to the show?
With the third national tour, weíve been visiting a lot of smaller, private theaters. Weíve run the spectrum. We played the Fox Theater which held 5,200 people, and then, just the other day, we were in a place that only held 800. Itís great for such a small audience - because the show is so large to them - itís amazing. We went to a theater in Georgia - this was a place that had never had a musical before. They were very receptive. It was a great experience - feeling how grateful they were.

* Anything else you would like to convey about Swing?
Itís just fun. Itís a great time. Bring yourself to the theater. You wonít find a happier show. During the last tour, we performed on September 12 - a horrific day. But we had a full house. We made people smile and laugh, and we received a standing ovation. If a show can do that the day after September 11, thatís a show you need to come to.

SWING!, the third show in the 2002-2003 Broadway at the Maryland Series, will play the Maryland Theatre for one night only, Tuesday, December 3, 2002 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the Box Office, 21-27 South Potomac Street in Hagerstown or can be purchased over the phone at 301-790-2000. Prices range from $40-$50.