By Amanda Berg Whittle
Utah Symphony‘s Dancing and Romancing at the beautiful Abravanel Hall is exactly what it sounds like. Fun, classic music celebrating great early Hollywood artists such as Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, and Gene Kelly, as performed by talented Broadway performers Joan Hess and Kirby Ward. Both bring not only great vocal talent, but witty personalities, high quality tap and swing dancing, and an overall fun, engaging atmosphere, enjoyable and appropriate for anyone ages 5-105. By intermission, my husband was asking me to have my tap shoes shipped from New York so I could teach him how to tap dance like Ward. Normally my bodybuilder husband is incredibly hesitant to attempt any type of dancing, so thank you, Mr. Ward! Utah Symphony Conductor Conner Gray Covington even gets in on the fun!
Hess’ chosen variety of dresses and shoes help set the stage and scene, and she even goes so far as to add taps to shoes you wouldn’t expect taps on, to surprise the audience with unexpected tap dancing in certain songs. I appreciate Ward wearing a tailed tuxedo during the song where he plays Fred Astaire, and for openly speaking about how much he respects Astaire’s talent. My father’s hero is Fred Astaire so that was an especially poignant moment for me.
Music by incredible composers such as Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and brothers Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin, and simple yet profound lighting design help transform the stage from an early MGM movie one song (such as Singin’ in the Rain from the movie with the same name) to a smoky 1920s piano bar the next (such as All that Jazz from the musical Chicago). The performance, rather than a story, is a wonderful combination of some of the most well-known jazz, swing, and Broadway hits. I personally enjoy how Hess, Ward, and Covington engage with the audience throughout the songs and between songs, but do not speak to take up time. The audience can tell they want to primarily speak through the music. Various musicians in the symphony are featured throughout the night, notably Jason Hardink (piano) in I Love a Piano. To know a classical pianist can play high quality jazz makes me so happy! I am impressed by any classical musician who can play improvised jazz, for, as a French horn player who has played jazz trumpet and horn myself, it is not an easy transition. I am especially impressed with the string players during this performance, as that transition from classical to jazz is far less “natural” than that of, say, a trombone player. These string players, and the entire symphony, are able to sound strikingly similar to the orchestras in the movies they are emulating. They are truly world class musicians.
Dancing and Romancing is playing at Abravanel Hall Saturday, February 10th at 7:30 PM. Get there when doors open at 6:30 PM so you can participate in a free, laid back swing and lindy hop dance lesson by local dancers Marcea Hess and David Hess. At Utah Symphony’s Dancing and Romancing, you’ll be dancing cheek to cheek by the end of the night—a perfect Valentine’s date.
Utah Symphony presents Dancing and Romancing
Abravanel Hall, 123 W South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
February 9-10, 2018 7:30 PM
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