Sunday, June 21, 2015

ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL - The Glenn Miller Orchestra


Presented by ATAAllstar Artists Pty Ltd. And the Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 19 2015

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

The Glenn Miller Orchestra

I’ve just had a swinging great time and judging by the oohs and aahs from the sea of Seniors around me, the audience was swept along on the same wave of nostalgia. On the Festival Theatre stage, the Glenn Miller Orchestra from Los Angeles magnificently revived the old familiar melodies of a bygone era from Miller’s signature tune, Moonlight Serenade to popular favourites such as George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Chattanooga Choo Choo. Seventy five years after Miller formed his wartime orchestra, the melodies still evoke the heart and soul of a world at war with the soaring sounds of optimism, love and hope. Under the leadership of band leader the outstanding orchestra of trumpeters, trombonists, saxophonist, percussionist, Bass player and pianist, The Glenn Miller Orchestra treated the capacity audience to a bevy of familiar, hummable, foot tapping tunes that kept the audience entranced from start to finish. The bold blast of the brass, the rhythmic beat of the drums, the subtle accompaniment of the Bass and the melodic tunes from the piano conjured once more the fun and laughter of the 1940s dance floors.

The Glenn Miller Orcheastra and the Broadway Swing Dancers
The orchestra is also accompanied by the stylish and energetic Sydney based Broadway swing dancers, who recalled the elegance and sophistication of such stars of the silver screen, Gene Kelly, Fred and Adele Astaire and Cyd Charisse to such numbers as Tuxedo Junction, Hootenanny Hoot Hoot or Little Brown Jug to name but a few. No band would be complete without the vocalist and the orchestra is fortunate to include the wonderful voices of Wendy Smith and a contemporary Frank Sinatra, the likeable Mark Kopitske. With a long brown gown to match the pink camellia in her hair, Smith captivates her audience with her rendition of Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out Of You and ‘Swonderful, made famous by Fred Astaire in the film Funny Face. With that likeable grin, Kopitske entrances with his rendition of the Frank Sinatra hit, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and soulfully captures the mood of World War 2 with Roses of Picardy. Far too many to mention here, hit follows hit with outstanding musicianship from a touring orchestra that reverently captures the arrangements of Miller, Bill Finnegan and members of the modern Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Glenn Miller with trombone
In tribute to the Anzac tradition, the programme draws to a close with tunes from World War One, such as Bill Finnegan’s arrangement of the 1917 composition, The Johnson Rag and the earlier Line Buddy. Wendy Smith and Mark Kopetsky join the orchestra to sing  medley of Roses of Picardy, It’s A Long Way To Tiperary, Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Vera Lynn’s mournful song of irony, The White Cliffs of Dover.

To close Rick Gerber introduces all the members of the touring performance before bringing the show to an inevitable, regrettable close with the full version of Moonlight Serenade.  To the rousing applause of a enthusiastically appreciative audience, Gerber announces an encore number and launches into the St. Louis Blues March before changing tack to an original arrangement of Australia’s unofficial National Anthem. All over the world they recognize the song of a swaggie who steals a jumbuck and leaps into a billabong to escape the squatter and the law. It’s a rebel close to a remarkable trip down memory lane and a tribute to the men and women of the wartime era and the great bands of a glorious era. Humming or remembering, the audience left the theatre after an afternoon of unforgettable melodies, wonderful song and slick, stylish dance. Everyone had a fantastic, swinging good time.
The Glnn Miller Orchestra will be playing in the Canberra Theatre on June 27th. For all those who can remember and all those who love the sound and songs of the Big Band era, this is a performance not to be missed.