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OSTA CHRISTMAS THRANCE 2003

CAST: Andy Bakkum, Joseph Beck, Lucius Bryant, Dian Chernansky, Joel Craig, Kelly Ehlert, Antonio Gillings, Suzie Heaton, Victor Isaac, April Jacobson, Lisa Natale, Michelle O'Neil, Konima Parkinson-Jones, Blakeley Ponomarenko, Marcia, Svaleson, Arimah Trinadad, Al Walz, Stephanie Bell, and Andy Wolf

LA TIMES (David C. Nichols)

OST“Thrance” is a conflation of “theater” and “dance.” Considering “A Christmas Wendy Arimah Trinidad Thrance 2003” at the McCadden Place Theater, it could as easily refer to Dancer, Prancer, that whole crowd.

Since 1998, movement maverick Jessica Schroeder has evolved a self-defined aesthetic in her own Outlaw Style Thrance Company. The iconoclastic collaborative discipline inverts, and reinvents traditional dance and acting techniques in whole-hearted, imaginative ways.

Schroeder’s fourth annual Noel blowout finds her snappy cast and madcap designers attacking more than 30 seasonal standards with witty commitment. The fun begins with Angus Charles’ sharp soundtrack pouring forth Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians’ marathon “Jingle Bells.” The upper level and staircase disgorge the maniacally grinning concert choir-clad cast, whose wacky maneuvers cement the event’s intent.

OSTThe eclectic Chaos at Christmasprogram merges acerbity and schmaltz, punctuated by vintage celebrity holiday promos. Schroeder (as taut and nuanced a performer as she is a director-choreographer) and company are fearless, diving headlong into this Yuletide wave of hybrid high jinks.

Marcia Svaleson invests Tammy Wynette’s “Blue Christmas” with a passion that recalls Nora Kay. Victor Isaac barrels across James Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas,” to house-rattling effect. Producer Stephanie Bell, Joseph Beck, Lucius Bryant, Arimah Trinidad and Andy Wolf typify the ensemble’s individuality and spontaneity. Given the tiny venue, their controlled abandon is awesome.

The many airplay fade-outs tarnish the trajectory and lead to some redundant transitions, despite Kevin Cadwallader’s ace lighting. Still, who cares? This crazy Christmas quilt is quirky and altogether entrancing.

A Christmas Thrance 2003
Reviewed By Hoyt Hilsman
Backstage West

OSTDirector/choreographer Jessica Schroeder and her Outlaw Style Thrance Company reprises its irreverent, whimsical Christmas show, which features their distinctive, humorous mix of dance and theatre (“thrance”). It is a fun antidote to Christmas sappiness, with offbeat arrangements of holiday favorites and lots of edgy lyrics about the darker side of Christmas. Whether it is elves in disco lines or lonely housewives doing pirouettes to the blues, this is an eclectic, kitchen-sink holiday experience, drawing not only on different musical styles and genres but also on dance moves from hip-hop to ballet. Each number offers and embedded commentary, such as frenzied shopping set to The Nutcracker Suite or an in-your-face thug in Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Santa Claus is Back in Town.” The performers are a mix of professional dancers and actors who can (sort of) dance. It’s a delightful combination, as the actors huff and puff to keep up with the hoofers, even as they steal the scenes with lots of mugging. The cast plays it almost entirely straight, putting as much effort into the tight Lawrence Welk version of “Jingle Bells” as they do into the looser, more Victor Isaac expressionistic pieces. Schroeder’s choreography is superb, never self-conscious but always original, even as she appropriates popular dance and ballet moves. Above all, she finds the narrative line in the choreography, teasing the meaning out of the moves, then flashing them back again to make sure everybody gets it. OSTThere are lots of terrific solo and ensemble performances. Schroeder is a dynamic performer, bringing elegance and emotion to “Someone to Spend Christmas with Me” and “No room,” as well as style and power in “Santa Claus is Coming” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Lucius Bryant is crisp and sexy in “Merry Christmas Baby,” and Victor Isaac finds all the pain and pathos in “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Marcia Svaleson is terrific in Tammy Wynette’s “Blue Christmas,” and Arimah Trinidad is outstanding in “Santa Claus is Back in Tow.” Indeed the entire cast is skilled, energetic and joyful in this tuneful and fun evening.

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