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Swing into Gainesville High for nonstop music, dance
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Members of the Gainesville High School drama program rehearse "Swing!" on Tuesday. The show runs Wednesday through May 9. - photo by Tom Reed

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

But the latest production from Gainesville High School sure does - along with a cast of nearly 50 students singing and dancing to classic tunes.

"Swing!" opens Wednesday and runs through May 9.

Unlike other productions the high school puts on, this one has been the most physically demanding of the young actors, they said during a recent rehearsal, because it's essentially nonstop action, sweeping from one song and dance number into the next.

Plus, there's the added pressure of knowing this is the performance that will be in front of the judges in Scotland this summer for the International Fringe Festival, where the students in the drama department will be competing.

So, every chance for practice counts, especially when it's rigorous dancing, quirky beats and scat-style singing.

"This isn't like any show I've ever done. It's really intense," said senior Jennifer Fuller, who plans to study theater education at college in the fall.

While a few scenes have just a couple dancers, and a few have about 10 dancers, she said the bulk of the show has all 45 cast members flying around the stage to choreography by Palmer Ramsay, a Gainesville High alumnus.

"We're on our feet almost the whole time singing scat, which we've never done before - and any musical in the past four years. And we do four a year, so it's very different.

"It's a learning experience for sure."

The production includes such classics as "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and the stage has a touch of Vegas-style glitz in a shimmery silver backdrop. The costumes are simple in red, white and black, leaving the cast and the audience to focus on the dancing.

Sophomores Charleston Chapman and Stacy Young are dance captains for the show, which means that not only do they need to know all the moves inside and out, but they also have taken on the task of teaching steps to the eighth-graders supplementing the cast.

Chapman said dancing is like second nature to her; she's been taking ballet classes since she was 4. But this is the first production - musical theater or otherwise - for Young.

The swing music is "very interesting," he said.

"You just got to feel it in your feet."

Director Pam Ware said she chose this show to perform in Scotland because it required minimal scenery and costumes - perfect for taking on the plane. Plus, because the music is timeless, it translates well for an international audience.

But for now, it's practice, practice, practice for the cast members.

Senior Manse Jennings said he had always thought about joining a production, and finally jumped in when he heard about the chance to go to Scotland. But having never been in a production before - and, while he's not sure what he wants to do after high school, admits to not being pulled toward theater - he's not sure what he's gotten himself into.

"I'd always thought about doing one, I just didn't realize the one I'd be doing would be this big of a production," he said. "It's quite an experience. I'm way outside of my comfort zone; I try to do what I can."

Even an experienced dancer like Chapman said she's been pushed to a new level in the high-energy production.

"I don't think we've ever had dancing like that before."

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