05 April 2014

"I'd Rather Be Dancing" at Playhouse on Park": a review

As a college professor who distributes course evaluations to students in each class at the end of each semester, I have found the only two questions that really help me think productively about the success of a class are those I regularly add myself on the back of the standard form:

1) What worked?

2) What didn't?

And, this is how I've been thinking about Stop/Time Dance Theatre's new show, I'd Rather Be Dancing, that opened last night at Playhouse on Park and runs through April 13.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should note that I've been taking tap classes from Darlene Zoller, the show's creator/choreographer and Stop/Time's founder, for a while now. With that out of the way, here goes...

What worked?

Anytime Tyler Knowlin or Spencer Pond were on the stage, they had our attention.  Mr. Knowlin, a remarkably compelling tapper, earned his "special guest" program designation by making it all look so easy and taking ownership of the best parts of both acts.  Mr. Pond, who was on stage throughout the show -- even at it's most crowded -- always commanded it. Both lithe and quick-witted, he always left this audience member wanting more.

Act II's company-wide "Tap Jam" and the trio on Bob Fosse's "Steam Heat" (with an especial shout-out to Constance Gobeille).

The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that Stop/Time dancers always bring to their shows.

The chemistry between angels Hillary Ekwall and Victoria Mooney.

The simple poignancy of the choreography for "Remember Me," s song written by Music Director Sean Pallantroni

What didn't work?

The concept: something about Heaven and Hell, angels' getting their wings, a dead guy's (Rick Fountain) getting a second chance, and a grumpy god's (Gail D. Schoppert) complaining about the help -- all of which, I'm afraid, have been done before to death.  And who, exactly, was singer Becky LaBombard supposed to be -- since she was apparently not the dead man's high school girlfriend, college steady, fling on Cape Cod, or wife?

Too much recorded music.  If I had Colin Britt, and a pit band, on stage for a whole show, I'd have used them a lot more.  Relatedly, if there's going to be recorded music, don't lip-sync.

"Time Traveler," "Grow Old with Me," and "I'd Rather Be Dancing" are just not very interesting songs, no matter who's singing them.

And "Stairway to Heaven," even with the multi-talented Spencer Pond's choreography, is still a dumb song.

The take-away

If a good dance show is one that highlights talented dancers in a variety of styles, then Darlene Zoller and Company have provided the audience with that (and more).  Sure, it's not perfect, but, when you go, you'll be rewarded by the sheer joy that the performers bring to the stage.  And, if perchance you like disco, you'll enjoy it even more.

I may know nothing about theatre, but I'm pretty sure that having any character, at the end of Act One, say, "Oh dear, it looks like all of Act One has been a waste!" is not a good idea.  What if the audience agrees?

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