by Kevin Raponey
“Kevin! Pilar just twisted her ankle! The Judge track is going to jump into Pilar’s track but the Female Swing is already on. Can you swing on for the Female Judge track for Act 2!?” - Stage Manager of the National Tour of Legally Blonde The Musical.
Welcome to Swing Life, Kevin!
Nine years later, in the men’s dressing room of the Tenth Anniversary Production of Rock Of Ages, my notes are open as I run through one of the seven tracks that I cover. This show is by far the most difficult show I have gotten to Swing because it is a smaller company and everyone is very featured but the four shows before this one have set me up for success. I have learned that knowing the show in and out is to everyone’s advantage and that literally anything can happen at any time.
Some examples of some “Super Swing Moments” in my career have been in the national touring production of A Chorus Line when I went on last minute for a role that I didn’t cover without a rehearsal. In Kiss Me, Kate at Shakespeare Theatre Company, I went into a final full rehearsal run through because a cast member missed his train back to Washington D.C. with no rehearsal. In West Side Story at Paper Mill Playhouse, I went on during Tech for a Shark Track because he missed the bus from Manhattan to the theatre and most recently at Rock Of Ages, just last week, I went on as the second cover for a principal role I didn’t yet get a put-in rehearsal for with only two hours notice before show time.
The life of a Swing is a stressful one, but a rewarding one.
As a Swing, your Dance Captain is your coach. Just like in sports, you listen to your coach so that you will win the game. They guide you to be a champion. Understudy rehearsals at Rock Of Ages happen every week with stage management, the Musical Director and the Dance Captain to make sure that you are as ready as possible in case of an injury or sickness within your company. This doesn’t always happen when you are a Swing on the road. The challenging thing when being a Swing on a national touring production is that there isn’t a lot of time to have rehearsals. You travel from city to city, sometimes every week. You are expected to be able to jump in at any time without having a full put- in. Those experiences have set me up for success here at Rock Of Ages and I am thankful for the times when my companies “shoved with love” and cheered me on as I jumped into the show.
I will continue to take opportunities to Swing a show because not everyone has the mind for it and not many actors want to do it. I love my job. I love sitting in the audience each night, studying my tracks and cheering them on during curtain call. It gives me joy to watch the show as a whole succeed day after day and when I do have the opportunity to be a part of the show, it is that much sweeter!