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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

Lively show has historic theater swinging


He's not expecting the audience to dance in the aisles, but choreographer, director, and dancer Joe Dennehy is sure that toes will be tapping and fingers will be snapping during performances of Swing at Croswell Opera House in Adrian.

“You've got this incredible jazz band that's on stage interacting with the dancers, and they're interacting with four singers who are doing these very Manhattan Transfer type of tight harmonies. It's really exciting to see all of them having a great time up on stage,” Dennehy said in a telephone interview.

Swing opened last night in the historic theater, and it continues through July 20, the second offering in the Croswell's summer musical season. The show, which earned six Tony Award nominations, is a celebration of music and dance, highlighting such styles as jive, jitterbug, Latin swing, and hip-hop. It features such classic swing tunes as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing),” and “Stompin' at the Savoy.”

The Croswell always tries to include a dance show in its summer series, Dennehy says. Previous seasons have seen Singin' in the Rain, George M, and 42nd Street.

“This area really loves dance shows,” Dennehy said. “And [the Croswell] always gets some really good crowds for them.”

He is expecting no less for Swing, although he admits to some initial trepidation over getting just the right performers. It turns out that casting was tough, but not in the way Dennehy anticipated.

“We were very blessed. We had a lot of people who tried out,” he said. Some of them would have been great for the show, but there just weren't enough parts.

“It's actually a pretty small cast. You only have 12 dancers in the show, so you have to limit yourself. But I guess that's also a good thing, because you get such a choice.”

Dennehy, who runs a Toledo manufacturing plant that supplies parts for the Jeep Liberty, is no stranger to local audiences. Recent parts at the Croswell include that of Cosmo in Singin' in the Rain and the title role in George M. He has also worked with D&D Dance Studio, Cassandra Ballet, Toledo Ballet, the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, the Village Players, and the Waterville Players. Last spring he did the choreography for Delta High School's production of Anything Goes.

He says that he got most of his training locally, through classes at various dance studios and the Toledo Ballet.

Swing is the perfect summer show, Dennehy says. “Certainly if you like swing music, you're going to love this stuff. This is not one of those shows that you really need to think a lot about or pay strict attention to. You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy.”

“Swing” continues through July 20 in the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for seniors and students and $22 for adults. Information: 517-264-7469.

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