Is "Zoot Suit Riot" one of your favorite songs? Are the tunes of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in heavy rotation on your CD changer? Do you rush off to swing-dance lessons after leaving the office?
Maybe that's because it's not 1998.
So if the creators of "Forever Swing's Zoot Suit: A Big Band Revue" are looking to capitalize on a trend, they're off a few years. Of course connoisseurs of true swing -- and not that "neo" stuff mentioned above -- are still out there, and they might be interested enough to buy tickets to this big-stage, no-name show. But judging by the empty seats at the Warner Theatre's opening performance Tuesday night, many of those fans would rather listen to their Glenn Miller records at home.
Not that the 26 performers in "Zoot Suit" don't give their all. With the exception of a couple of mishaps -- the pop of a speaker here, a stumble there -- the orchestra, dancers and singers put on an energized show. Creators Sam Lutfiyya and Dean Regan, partners whose other credits include the little-known musicals "Hotel Porter" and "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline," give "Zoot Suit" the loose framework of following the fictitious Tommy Vickers Band. The group globe-trots with stops in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and London, sometimes as a headliner but more often providing music for dance contests or vocalists.
"Zoot Suit" begins with a brief introduction outside one Crystal Ballroom, with well-dressed revelers hurrying in.
The colorful though somewhat crude backdrop that serves as the ballroom's facade then rises to reveal a gasp-inducing white-tuxed orchestra, its 12 members arranged on red-and-gold stairs and backed by sheer white drapery and tiny white lights. It is the evening's most elegant set. And even though the venue changes result in less impressive alterations to the set, the band's formal wear at least remains a constant.
Regan, who also directs, mixes up the performances to keep the production moving briskly. The focus continually shifts among solos (from dancers, singers and musicians), small groups and cast-wide numbers, with the repertoire including big-band standards such as "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." Much of the show is competent and lively but unspectacular, with the tight, rich-sounding orchestra coming off best. Vocals are smoothly handled by four performers, with Adam James, a Harry Connick Jr. wannabe, most often taking center stage.
The dancing is an unsurprising mix of jazz hands, finger-pointing and occasionally breathtaking acrobatics. Among the most impressive performers are twins Kareem and Tyheem Barnes, whose impossibly smooth, gravity-defying moves can morph from dancing to circus act, but what an act it is: Watch incredulously as they form a ball and roll together across the stage, or as one balances his brother, hands-free, on his head like a T -- and then starts spinning.
Granted, those feats have nothing to do with swing, but a couple hours of that would almost be worth your 30 bucks.
Not to mention that those tricks are slightly more appropriate than the show's truly puzzling break-dancing interludes. And less freaky than the life-size rag dolls the dancers partner with, seemingly to add a dash of humor to the performances. When these come out, the timing of "Zoot Suit" is no longer the weirdest part of the production.
Forever Swing's Zoot Suit: A Big Band Revue, conceived by Sam Lutfiyya and Dean Regan. Directed by Dean Regan. Choreographer, Stephen Lilly; musical arrangements, Dave Pierce and David Alan Bunn; costumes, Mary Francis Miles; lighting, Marshall Williams; set, Felix Cochren. Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. Through Sunday at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. Call 800-551-7328 or visit www.warnertheatre.com.