Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the rat pack continue to seize some intimate nugget of nostalgia in the American imagination, abetted by the steely slick appeal of AMC’s hit show Mad Men and the persistence of skinny ties and cocktail culture for the haute bourgeoisie. Yet years before Don Draper ever donned a diachronic dinner jacket, Benny Goodman was striking up the big band and giving G.I.s, cigarette girls and hepcats a reason to sing their blues away.
The tunes and croons of the Swing Era will be faithfully recreated Nov. 16 when Artbeat’s “In the Mood,” the premiere revue of America’s Big Band era, hits the stage of Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall. As the show’s producer, Bud Forrest, said of the music of bandleaders Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway and others, “Everybody was listening to Big Band. It was the last time everybody was listening to the same kind of music. It’s a time that hasn’t been replicated since.”
“In the Mood” is now in its 19th year of touring the world, Forrest notes of a live show that strives to bring an unreconstructed view of the Swing Era to audiences around the nation. “The music is the story,” he explains, adding that swing and big band were intimately connected to the war overseas. Forrest says that one of the era’s leading figures, Glenn Miller, served in the military and that during World War II performers like Bob Hope and Miller brought comfort to soldiers with USO performances.
“The sound of that music, I don’t want to say it made it better,” Forrest says, “but it may have given a little more impetus for going through the horrors of the war.” He adds that the show continues to strike a chord with folks around the world who respond to swing’s uplifting messages and undeniable beats. “All over the country there’s a whole audience of people who love this music,” he adds.
“It seems to work really well,” Forrest says of “In the Mood,” which features a 13-piece band and six singers and dancers. “People keep telling me that one of the things they like is how it’s been put together. It illustrates what it must have felt like to hear a big band.”
“In the Mood” plays 7 pm Friday, Nov. 16, at Hult Center; $27-$47.