- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2001

The first thing one notices when the curtains rise on "Forever Swing" is that the dancers have precious little room in which to swing.
The show, playing through Feb. 18 at the Warner Theatre, features a huge orchestra. This leaves only a slim strip of stage where the swing kids can kick up their heels.
The subtle sense of claustrophobia is one of the niggling problems in "Forever Swing," a big band revue that debuted in 1998 at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Those entranced by swing music, though, or who pine for the kind of torch songs that used to light up the cinemas, will revel in the evening's charms.
The show follows the fictional Tom Vickers band, an adept group that runs through the swing era's greatest hits with breakneck speed and style.
Creator-director Dean Regan makes little pretense about connective elements. His musical review steamrolls forward with a capable cast whose performers, while meticulous, lack a certain razzle-dazzle.
That cannot be said of Kareem and Tyheem Barnes, twin dancers who all too briefly grace the stage. The duo offer up the kind of jaw-dropping, gravity-defying moves that instantly elevate the material.
Bedecked in white tuxes, military uniforms and brightly colored dresses, the rest of the cast performs with an impressive bank of energy, if not standout charisma.
"Swing" opens with a phlegmatic lurch, as the players slowly strut across the stage in comical false starts. Most of the attempts at humor, chiefly through stuffed dolls masquerading as dance partners, fall flat.
"Forever Swing" features less dancing than what might be expected, and its narrow focus and unimaginative staging leave anyone not entranced by the era's music in the dark. A brief segment featuring a fire-eating "Persian Slave Girl" becomes a welcome change of pace, even if her gyrations prove generic.
Chanteuse Gabrielle Goodman wraps her lovely voice around a number of standards, including a frisky "A-Tisket, A-Tasket." Fellow crooner Michael Buble doesn't fare as well. Mr. Buble possesses the thick locks and hearthrob visage of singers of yore, and his singing recalls Frank Sinatra's velvety vocals. But he sings without raw emotion, more of an imitation than a soulful rendition.
His "Begin the Beguine" only scratches at the chestnut's surface, but his duet with Heidi Biang on "Slow Boat to China" strikes the right supple note.
Debbie Timuss summons the ghost of Carmen Miranda with her spicy number, "I Yi-Yi-Yi-Yi, I like You Very Much," a show stopper for her sanitized sexiness and sense of abandon.
Praise for "Swing's" 10-member orchestra demands no caveats. It injects two takes on "Sing, Sing, Sing" with the proper vigor, and its trumpeters deserve every beat of applause imparted upon them at show's end.
"Forever Swing" lacks the hair-raising dance moves that might convert those immune to the swing era's charms. If you've seen the recent swing revivals, or even the Gap advertisements featuring swing dancers, little here will amaze.
Yet the power of the music, and of a dance genre so joyful it literally sweeps its participants off their feet, cannot be smothered by this imperfect revue.{*}{*}1/2WHAT: "Forever Swing"WHERE: Warner Theatre, 1299 Pennsylvania Ave. NWWHEN: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 18TICKETS: $19 to $49PHONE: 202/783-4000

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