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Sisters in Swing

The Swingirls go over like gangbusters at Judy*s Chelsea with an evening of hits from the Big Band era. logo

The Swingirls (l-r): Marybeth Purdy,
Pat Monahan, and Linda Harris
Sweet, swinging harmonies never go out style. There is, it seems, a tangible desire for the kind of sound made famous by the likes of the Andrews Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, and others of their musically sophisticated ilk. No wonder, then, that a contemporary female threesome that goes by the name of The Swingirls drew sellout crowds at Judy*s during a recent run at that charming Chelsea club.

Performing a program of familiar tunes that basically consisted of the greatest hits of the Big Band Era, The Swingirls' offered a show that had no sense of discovery about it. That's not a major complaint; it's great fun to revisit songs like "Moonlight Serenade," "Satin Doll," and "Mood Indigo," to name just a few of the classics that graced the evening. Just the same, it would have added a little spice to the proceedings if the group had included one or two obscure gems. The show would also have been a tad more engaging if musical director Joe Reina had treated some of the famous selections to more complicated and/or surprising arrangements.

Several of the songs presented were combined into medleys. If the group's relatively simple approach to "It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got that Swing" might have soon worn out its welcome, some zest was added with a quick segue into "Sing, Sing, Sing," followed a very short time later by a mood-twisting turn into "In the Mood." It might be said that The Swingirls opt for quantity over quality: The quantity is impressive and, to be fair, the quality is commendably professional if not particularly thrilling. While this show might not make a more musically sophisticated Manhattan cabaret audience jump for joy, it seems well designed to travel around the country and over the oceans to places where this kind of music is far less readily available in live performance. (We hope that doesn't sound too New York-centric.)

The membership of The Swingirls seems to be ever changing; it will take some stability in the ranks before the group can knock out genuinely exciting harmonies. Nonetheless, they create a silky blend in tunes like "Moondance" and "I've Got the World on a String." Blonde Pat Monahan has a gentle soprano that swirls into the sound mix like fudge in an ice cream sundae. Linda Harris, tall and deep-voiced, is the most expressive actress among The Swingirls-though, with her flashing eyes, she is sometimes over the top even as she's singing under the lead vocal. Mary Beth Purdy has the most natural stage presence of the three and possesses an exceptionally stirring voice. We'd like to see her perform a solo show. We'd also like to see The Swingirls stick together until they "Straighten Up and Fly Right." With some work, we're sure that "The Best Is Yet to Come" from this group.

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