A CHRISTMAS THRANCE 2002
CAST: Ray Barnhart, Stephanie Bell, Lucius Bryant, Lisa Gran, Yi Li, Theodore Marinez, April C. Seals, Alisa Steen, Shani Tennyson, Arimah Tinidad, Atim Udoffia, Alicia Yang
LA WEEKLY (Lovell Estell III)
A Christmas Thrance is a celebration of the Yuletide season rendered in music, dance and performance. Director-choreographer Jessica Schroeder and her 12-member ensemble (Ray Barnhart, Stephanie Bell, Lucius Bryant, Lisa Grant, Theodore Martinez, April C. Seals, Alisa Steen, Shani Tennyson, Arimah Trinidad, Atim Udoffia, Alica Yang and Mé Li) invest a "slightly sarcastic" tinge to their interpretations of 29 holiday selections. What’s striking is that the more middling pieces are the solo forays, while the better ones feature the group at or near full strength. The clear exceptions are two flawless pieces performed by Schroeder ("Santa Claus Is Comin’" and "Someone To Spend Christmas With Me"). The music is a top-down enjoyable showcase of tunes from a range of styles and composers (the Beach Boys, Jackson Five, Mills Brothers, Lou Rawls, Pretenders and many others). "The Nutcracker Suite," performed to Duke Ellington’s version of the Tchaikovsky classic, is also superb, as is the troupe’s zany, reindeer-costumed take on the Temptations’ "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Nice costumes by Etta Ray and Arimah Trinidad. Outlaw Style Theater Company at the McCadden Place Theater, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; mats Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 22. (323) 860-6503. Written 12/12/02 (Lovell Estell III)
Thrance (thrans) – origin unknown, possibly American slang. THEATRE + DANCE. N.1. a melodrama; 2. a dramatization in movement and music. V. to move about in an agitated manner while in a great state of desire.
One thing for sure. This is not your regular Andy Williams Christmas Special. Even though many of the songs are from that era, and the spoofy numbers are borderline parody, it’s obvious that the cast places its collective tongue firmly in its cheek and then just goes for it.
Using old recorded music, the troupe romps around, flailing legs and arms in what they call Thrance – (Theatre + Dance).
Some of them actually dance, although there’s no danger of mistaking anyone for Debbie Allen or Gene Kelly. Lucky for them the Dance Police didn’t come around that night, or else many would be guilty of DWR (dancing without rhythm) and could be sentenced to 1000 plies while standing in fifth position. But enough praise – let’s get to the good stuff!
Opening with Jingle Bells by Fred Waring & the Pennsylvanians (a recording circa the 1950’s probably), right away you see the footprints on the stage…the cast has no intention of playing it straight, although they look the part with glitzy costumes and bright props.
Choreographer and director Jessica Schroeder puts the best foot forward in a bluesy rendition of Santa Claus is Coming, that comes whimsically close to some classic Astaire steps while adding some of her own unique touches.
For finger popping, the Crazy Cowboy Christmas is a fun hoe down, with Lisa Grant showing some good moves, proving to Mom and Dad that all the dance lessons she had as a kid actually took.
The class act has to be The Little Drummer Boy, sung by Rawls and performed by Theodore Martinez, Alisa Steen, April Seals and Shani Tennyson. Replete with imaginative steps and expressive body movements, this could become the break out piece for the company.
Every number of the twenty-nine listed in the program has something unique or special, and the inclusion of several low key songs prove that Christmas is often as much for the lonely as for the connected. Some of the better numbers include Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, where Rudoph dresses like a pimp, and The Nutcracker Suite, which shows the real spirit of the holidays, not the one people would like to think exists. The common thread in all the songs is the energy and heart the performers give to each piece. No one can say these people don’t have the spirit – and this rubs off on the audience making it an evening of fun and nostalgia. The Outlaw Style Thrance Company has included some old time commercials between numbers in a clever touch that underscores the period of the songs. We don’t agree with a previous reviewer who once described their work as ‘dedicated to the principle of doing dance an injustice.”
They also did it to theatre!
The rest of the troupe includes Ray Barnhart, Stephanie Bell, Lucius Bryant, Yi Lin, Atim Udoffia, Animah Trinidad and Alicia Yang. Stephanie Bell produces and prances along with the rest of the gang.