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SONG AND DANCE

WHAT: SWING

WHEN: Tuesday through October 28

WHERE: Shea's Performing Arts Center

ADMISSION: $22.50-$52.50.

INFO: 852-5000

"Swing!" begins with a guy in a purple striped suit belting "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing."

And it goes on from there, with high-kicking Lindy hoppers, blaring trombones and saxophones, and no fewer than 30 dance numbers. Rumors of the death of the swing fad, it appears, have been greatly exaggerated.

"Swing!," which comes to Shea's Performing Arts Center on Tuesday and will be on the road for another eight months, was nominated for a bundle of Tony awards and has been drawing raves simply for its overwhelming energy. People appreciate how physical it is. (During rehearsals, the story goes, the action frequently came to a standstill because of injuries.)

And no one, it seems, can resist yet another nostalgic trip back to the era of the big bands.

Clarolyn Maier, an Oregon native who sings the songs in "Swing!," clearly savors the mood of the era.

"I would call myself a girl singer," Maier admits a little sheepishly on the phone, discussing her part and calling up images of Rosemary Clooney and Anita O'Day. "It's the USO scene. I sing "I'll be Seeing You.' There's a moment where I open the show, a dance segment called "Bounce Me Brother.' I'm the girl singer, surrounded by dancers. It's so much fun."

Standards featured in "Swing!" include "Caravan," "Bad Case of Rhythm," the sultry "Harlem Nocturne" and a galloping "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" that promises to shake Shea's. An accomplished pianist (she also plays the harp), Maier plays the piano with the orchestra for "Blues in the Night."

She appreciates the mood of the era she's re-creating.

"I'm a huge Sinatra fan," she says. "Frank Sinatra really knew the art of phrasing. He could take a lyric and turn it into something brand new and give it new meaning - not only with his musicality. His voice was so distinguishable. That's part of the era of this genre. There's so much of this genre of swing that has so much charm and well-thought-out compositions. The music is so well-composed. I guess you can say it's got a beginning, middle and end. Each song takes you to a different place."

Maier also adores Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Back home in California, where she pursues a career as a jazz singer, she's lucky to enjoy a close connection with one of them. "My accompanist, George Gaffney, was Sarah Vaughan's accompanist," she says. Music has landed Maier in some strange places. Once, she played harp in the same studio where "The Wizard Of Oz" was filmed. She was performing in the video for "I Stand Alone" by Steve Perry.

That was rock, and this is jazz - but it seems that "Swing!" packs at least as much punch.

"The finale is so electrifying and hot," Maier exults. "The orchestra, singers and dancers are collaborating as one. It's a celebration of the music and the dance."

e-mail mkunz@buffnews.com

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