With my older daughter, I attended the opening night of Darlene Zoller and the stop/time dance theatre's production of My Show: A Choreographer's Story at the under-new-management Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.
This dancing autobiography -- with the narrator's part of Darlene played by Gretchen Fountain -- was fine theatre throughout: fast-paced and energetic, funny and touching, colorful, and lots and lots of dancing of every stripe. (Let me note that, since Ms. Zoller is my tap teacher, I was a wee bit disappointed that there weren't a couple more tap numbers, but her treatment of Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" toward the end of the first act made it worth the wait! I also was hoping for a little more of Darlene herself, but I assume that, if it's hard to direct oneself in a film, it must be really hard to do so in a live dance extravaganza. Not to mention her being on a walker just a few short weeks ago.)
A look back at her life and career, My Show covers all the dance fads and television shows we've lived through -- American Bandstand, Hullabaloo, and, yes, even Solid Gold... with choreography that shows how much dancing has infused her life. While the entire show investigates the battle we face (or, should I say, the delicate navigations we must perform) between the deluded(?) image we have of ourselves and the real possibilities available to us, a number like "Big Time" drives the point home: what we want to happen, what we try to make happen, but, then again what really happens -- and how, surprisingly, we end up happy (and successful and fulfilled) nonetheless.
A talented troupe, including stand-out performances by Constance Kollmorgen, Mallory Cunningham, and Hillary Ekwell and yeoman's work by Rick Fountain and two drop-dead funny cameos by Michael Morgan, Ms. Zoller had the dancers in constant motion with all accessible at every angle for the audience sitting on three sides of the stage.
There's no doubt in my mind that better music elicits better choreography... so it should come as no surprise that "Lotta Livin' to Do," "Sing Sing Sing," "All that Jazz," and a Damn Yankees medley made for far better pieces than "Dance," "To Where You Are," and even "Magic to Do."
My quibbles are few (and perhaps idiosyncratic): each of the vocal numbers began with the singers hard to hear but luckily the sound balance got better as the song progressed; why no tapping on "Sisters" (?!); and there's just never a good time to play a Josh Groban song.
A special mention for 6-year-old Madison Righi, whose performance of "Brand New Baby" at the opening of the show couldn't have set a better mood and must have made everyone else have to try even harder. (What's the old saying about following children and dogs?)
In Playhouse on Park, stop/time dance has found a home, and last night's full house for Ms. Zoller's My Show suggests a long and happy life ahead.
Clearly this choreographer's story still has several acts to go...