Review: 'Swing's the Thing!' at the Ohio Theatre

Bill Rudman loves the American musical with a reckless passion that might be deemed felonious if it were applied to any other object of affection. And he shares that passion on a regular basis through the concerts produced by his organization, The Musical Theater Project.

This is where a review might usually say the TMPT is a wonderful secret that few people know about, but that would be wrong. TMPT is wonderful, indeed, but lots of people know about it, since their concerts often sell out.

That was the case for Swing’s the Thing! recently at the Ohio Theater in PlayhouseSquare, co-produced by TMPT and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. This salute to the heart of the swing era—from the mid-1930s to the end of World War II—features great live music provided by the Joe Hunter Trio and a few horns from the CJO.

Handling the vocals are a pair “girl and boy singers,” as the big bands used to dub their crooners. The superb Erin Keckan handles her songs with effortless, spot-on professionalism. And Tony Sias exudes loads of cool, especially on a song from “Street Scene” by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes. Even though Sias occasionally drifts off key, the charm of the production is never tarnished.

Of course, much of that charm comes from Rudman himself, who always narrates these journeys into our musical past. Rudman’s mellifluous voice poses a metaphorical challenge: It isn’t just a velvet glove—it’s more like a velvet glove nestled inside a cashmere mitten and wrapped in yards of vicuna.

And Rudman uses that voice to share arcane tidbits and interesting insights about the tunes, just as he does in his show, “On the Aisle,” which is on the SiriusXM “On Broadway” channel,

In this concert, he is also joined in his narration by pianist Joe Hunter and trombonist Paul Ferguson, the associate artistic director of CJO. Aided by some interesting film clips from the time, the show is a treasure for anyone who loves this kind of music. And they provide an avalanche of songs, from familiar ones such as “Pennies From Heaven” and “Old Devil Moon” to curios (“The Shorty George,” “Mutiny in the Nursery”).

And good news: they’re doing Swing’s the Thing! again next month in Lorain. So you’d best get your tickets soon.

Swing’s the Thing
April 11, 2015, Hoke Theatre, Stocker Arts Center, Lorain County Community College, call 440-366-4040. For more information about The Musical Theater project and their future concerts, go to