A brand new musical all about celebrating classic tunes, love, laughter and little competition too, is hitting a downtown Kelowna stage Sept. 5.
Swingtime Serenade is the brainchild of Kelowna musician Michael Minions who wrote the show as a way to showcase some of his favourite music from the 1930s and ’40s.
“I’ve had a love for this kind of music probably since I was little, my dad had some records. I discovered them and I liked the sound of it,” said Minions, Swingtime Serenade’s author, director, musical director and pianist.
“I pulled a bunch back in the spring, maybe 50-60 songs, that I thought would be really, really fun to play.”
Minions ran the idea and music by bassist Tom Kinahan who suggested a storyline was needed to create a good show.
His creative mind lead him to his new lead character of Harry the Hammer.
“It sounded like a great gangster name,” explained Minions. “The Dutch Schultz gang used to launder money through Broadway shows in the ’20s so I invented this character Harry the Hammer, who used to be an enforcer for the gang, but really liked doing the theatre stuff. So, when the gang broke up, he decided to go do touring shows.”
Minions based the show around a group of characters auditioning in Winnipeg to join Hammer’s show, the Swingtime Serenade.
“I looked at all the songs and developed what kind of character would sing each song,” said Minions.
“Songs of encouragement, I made up the Happy Girls, smooth songs, I made up the Mellow Meisters, there are some duos, the Sass Sisters, various characters grew out of the various songs.”
After auditions for the play finished, Minions made final changes to the show to fit his cast of actors.
“It just kind of grew organically out of that kind of love of the music,” added Minions.
“It is just a bunch of songs from about 1935-1945 that are fun to sing and fun to play and I wrapped it in this idea that it is a bunch of crazy characters auditioning to be part of touring show of Western Canada.”
While no member of the cast was born at the time these songs hit the radio waves, Minions said these songs are classic for a reason and the show is a blast for those young and old.
“It is fun, you don’t get to hear this music very often,” said Minions.
“There is a certain charm to this music. The Happy Girls sing songs of encouragement, they give you advice. There is a lot of mellow, relaxing music that is an anecdote to what your hear on the radio these days. The stories are there behind the songs.”
Swingtime Serenade is runs from Sept. 5 to Sept. 16 at the Mary Irwin Theatre, inside the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Tickets are available at the box office, by calling 250-717-5304 or online at rotarycentreforthearts.com.
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