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OSTAM I COOL?

Cast: Stephanie Bell, Andrew Boyle, Lucius Bryant Conrad Corral, Jennifer Cozza, Lisa Grant, Victor Isaac, Kyle Knauf, Kara Leigh, Frank Lopera, Shani Tennyson, Arimah Trinadad and Atim Udoffia

Paul Birchall
Backstage West

OST"Am I Cool?" presented by the Outlaw Style Thrance Company at the McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 McCadden Place, Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. July 6-28. $10. (323) 860-6503. It's party time in director/choreographer Jessica Schroeder's all-dancing theatrical tour de force, an often beguiling adventure in balletic motion that the producers have dubbed a "thrance," though what that means is anyone's guess. Am I cool?The general consensus seems to be that thrance is a sort of amalgam of theatrical and dance presentation; but the show boils down to a good old-fashioned dancing hootenanny, with an acrobatically adroit and well-coiffed ensemble of actor/dancers prancing around the stage like they're living an MTV video, or perhaps a perfume commercial. The story--and it's so feathery light as to make the very term seem hyperbolic--takes place at a snazzy nightclub, the sort of place that would never let most of us past the velvet ropes, where a group of the "bee-yoo-ti-ful people" arrives to stay and play. There is much air kissing and swishing of sultry evening gowns. And there is much dancing and prancing, with lavish and interestingly detailed production numbers--surprising because the stage is very small and the cast is remarkably large--that drift from one to the next with only the slenderest of transitions.

OSTAm I cool?The choice of music is eclectic: One moment the cast is hip-hopping to Morphine's "Early to Bed," the next it's jazzing it up romantically to Ray Charles' "Smack Dab in the Middle." There are also some standout solo numbers: Schroeder takes the floor for an intense and heatedly sensual turn to Rickie Lee Jones' "Coolsville," and Victor Isaac glides through the night to the Latin Playboys' "Forever Night Shade Mary." For conflict the songs are bracketed by a slim subplot in which a gay man feels spurned by his lover, who is dallying with a new paramour of the female variety.

Admittedly the entire thing lacks deep content, and some of the numbers seem cribbed from a Jazzercise video. But it's also strikingly rich in charm and brio. Certainly it's droll how the mood Schroeder creates is that of a celebration of everything that is hip and cool, albeit with the audience on the outside, pressing its nose against the window. Schroeder's choreography is tight and energetic, and the show emerges as an often engrossing labor of feverishly energetic love. The chorines work together with ingratiatingly tight precision, and Etta Ray's costumes should be copied by anyone wanting to know what to wear to The Shark Bar on a Saturday night.

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