Swingin’ Good Time

The Big Band era wasn’t just about the music — but the mood, style and energy it inspired. It was as much about sophistication, elegance and enjoying a glamorous night on the town waltzing and gliding around the dance floor as it was listening to that full orchestra sound.
It was an era of jazz and swing, of being fast on your feet for jitterbugs and lindys — when holding your partner close without saying a word was a different way of having a conversation.
The Big Band Theory, a show returning to the Riverside Resort, recreates that sassy era of big band music through song and dance, and there’s a good chance that unbridled energy might spill out into the audience.
It doesn’t take much for these classic songs to grab hold and take people on a nostalgic, historical journey through one of the most important genres in American music.
This year’s cast includes vocalist Laura Shaffer, who not only captures the diverse era in song, she dresses the part in vintage gowns that are a nod to the Las Vegas showrooms of old — places where intimate settings and crowded dance floors were filled with ladies in shimmering evening attire and gentlemen wore suits, ties and polished shoes.
It is as if Shaffer has been transported forward in time from the bygone era where she feels comfortable and right at home. And, why shouldn’t she? Shaffer was born and raised in Vegas, and started performing professionally when she was still a teenager.
She studied three different instruments and a little dance in her youth, but finally discovered singing was the way she could best convey her love for music to an audience.
Spending years honing her skills, working on the Vegas Strip and being mentored by veteran singers, musicians and choreographers, she continues to perform in all of the town’s major hotels include Mandalay Bay, The Wynn, Cosmopolitan, Aria, Four Seasons and off-the-Strip casino resorts such as the Hard Rock Hotel, the Tuscany, Palms, Red Rock Casino Resort and Green Valley Ranch Resort.
In 2014, her sold-out concert at Vegas’ well-known performing arts venue, The Smith Center, was broadcast to subscribers around the world by Yamaha.
She has opened for Tony Bennett, Bob Newhart, Wayne Newton, and Donny & Marie, and she was chosen as the performer to represent Las Vegas in the Emmy-winning CNN show, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” for the Las Vegas episode.
The talented torch singer has gathered an international and multi-generational fan base with her glamorous vintage look and her swinging and sultry take on the great jazz and swing standards.
From showrooms to ballrooms to nightclubs, from small combos to big band, the “Noir Nightengale” enchants with the glamour of the Golden Era Hollywood, the glitz of mid-century Vegas, and her engaging vocal style.
The six-piece band accompanying her is headed up by the multi-talented Ken Levine.
Levine, who hails from Brooklyn, New York, has been involved in the Vegas entertainment scene since the early ’90s. Before that, nobody really knows what he did, or they’re just not saying.
He created his band in 1995 after a local bandleader suggested he start is own “goddamned” band. The details behind this advice are still sketchy, but it has proven to be the push he needed to realize his own talent.
Levine founded the premier swing band in Vegas, becoming the house band at the Bellagio for two years, and they perform at just about every major hotel in town including many blues, jazz and roots festivals, corporate events and private parties.
So rest assured, these seasoned players will be bringing their A game to town when they hit the Don’s Celebrity Theatre stage.
Add six dancers to the mixing an a “swingin’ good time” is what audiences can expect. Listening and watching can quickly turn into tapping a toe or shaking a leg, clapping hands or bobbing heads in time to the beat. The urge might be too strong to stop yourself from jumping out of those seating and moving what your mama gave you.
That’s what the Big Band Theory is all about, incorporating music, singing, and dancing in their fierce combination that can’t help but move people into motion.


Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Thursday-Sunday, March 7-10 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info