Swing dancing is busting out all over, but it makes a great difference whether it is in Susan Stroman’s Contact or in Swing!, which, even if it does have that swing, don’t mean a thing. Most noteworthy about this otiose show is its lack of an author. The program’s title page lists Lynne Taylor-Corbett as director-choreographer and Jerry Zaks as production supervisor but no author. Buried in the back is a brief credit for “Original Concept” to one Paul Kelly. The ancient Greeks believed that worms were born of spontaneous combustion, so Swing! may have originated in unspontaneous combustion.
The able Thomas Lynch has designed his most boring set, the gifted William Ivey Long his tawdriest costumes; and the talented lighting designer Kenneth Posner may have been asleep at the switch. Miss Taylor-Corbett’s choreography confuses energy with imagination, but soars (sort of) when dancers swing from bungee ropes like Peter Pans afflicted with the staggers.
Do not look here for wit, satire, or dazzling invention, in which the old-time revues abounded. Now the skits consist of a swain’s always being late for a tryst with his angrily waiting lady love, and the songs are old standards getting new life more from a dedicated eight-piece band than from most of the performers. Ann Hampton Callaway, imposing in nightclubs and cabaret, dwindles on the large stage; of the others, only Laura Benanti scores: a fine singer and dancer as well as a skilled actress. The once-gifted Jerry Zaks has been steadily deconstructing himself in his last few shows; still, undemanding tourists and undiscriminating locals may fall for this tired chestnut.