A CHRISTMAS THRANCE 2004
CAST: Joseph Beck, Courtney Berlo, Lucius Bryant, Joel Craig, Kelly Ehlert, Melinda Kramer, Talbott Lin, Diann Marchlewski, Cadry Nelson, Steve Neumann, Konima Parkinson-Jones, Michelle Perdue, Rebecca Safier, Jeremy M. Sage, David Stamps, Chrisi Talyn, Stephanie Bell
BACKSTAGE WEST (Dave DePino)
Presented with a lot of charm, broad smiles, and tongue in cheek, this work by director/choreographer Jessica Schroeder and her 19-performer ensemble gives a holiday meaning to the word "thrance": a combination of the words theatre and dance. This production works well and not so well on various levels. It's something like a karaoke night for dancing, ending in a result of variable quality, but theenergy and heart bubbles over in abundance throughout. The troupe dances interpretively at times or just moves to the mood and beat of the music, trying to connect with the lyrics. Some of Schroeder's choreography is loose, light and airy, some classical, featuring a good deal of comedy, and then she hits you between the eyes with unexpected starkness through violent episodes and cast interactions. Her moves encompass a world of different feelings, and she ties them into the emotions of the Christmas holidays. She then sets it in the 1950s and early 1960s for some unknown reason, perhaps to use Hula Hoops in a wonderful little number; maybe it's for the campy go-go boots.
The recorded music here--kudos to lighting/sound operator J. Phillips--is quite interesting with a few, mild irreverences, i.e. Leon Russell's "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You," Chandler Travis' "Merry Christmas Anyway," Duke Ellington stylizing "The Nutcracker Suite," and Count Basie's "Sleigh Ride"--you get the gist. But the dancing or thrancing takes centerstage. Some dancer/thrancers don't seem to have mastered synchronicity or proper form, so Broadway's chorus line gypsies need not feel threatened.
On the plus side, the last two, somewhat lengthy numbers of the first act, involving the entire cast, are nearly stunning in concept and creative rendering. Also the solos, including Schroeder and Kelly Grete Elert, are quite finely executed. The finale culminates makes the audience collectively gasp at Etta Ray's consistently apropos and terrific costuming for this small production.
REVIEW PLAYS (Elizabeth Lopex)
Christmas Thrance 2004, written and choreographed by Jessica Schroeder, is the third annual Christmas theater and dance performance full of exciting, soulful, sensual, Christmas themed dance extravaganza. I highly recommend it for its beautifully choreographed dance sequences and funny Christmas imagery. It’s a visually and emotionally stimulating experience.
This two-hour show bursts with exciting performances; each Christmas song provides a different theme dance sequence; some dancers strut their stuff while clad in white suits-a la Saturday Night Fever. Another dancer owns the stage as she dances a’la Gene Kelly in a dark brown suit-gangster style-simply maaarvelous! Another group of dancers are reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra with boots’n’ all, others resemble 60s go-go dancers, while still others dance to a 70s disco theme. Group dancers perform some wildly exciting and fancy footwork while others do beautiful solo numbers full of soul and emotion.
This is a two-hour show packs a lot of punch for the money. It’s a terrific alternative to the same boring Christmas shows of the past. A real treat to the senses. Christmas hit songs, like Jingle Bells by Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by The Temptations and more, much more, provide the music to these lively, beautifully choreographed dance numbers. Don’t miss this one - Thance is a real Christmas treat for the holidays.