The Belmont Hotel by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Southern Theater
News flash! There‚Äôs a new theatrical dance company in town and it‚Äôs the real McCoy: topnotch dance talent, a live band onstage and a sweet story to tell. Collide Theatrical Dance Company is just what the name suggests: a ‚Äúcollision‚ÄĚ of performance forms. It‚Äôs heavy on the dance side, to be sure (there is no spoken dialogue), but for Fosse/Robbins fans it‚Äôs a fabulous fix.
Although director/choreographer Regina Peluso‚Äôs tilt is toward the choreographer half of that title, she‚Äôs also a stellar dancer, anchoring the female lead, ‚ÄúGail,‚ÄĚ in this tweak of the ‚Äúlove strays ‚Ä¶ love reunites‚ÄĚ theme. Squeaky clean extensions and pirouettes, soaring lifts, with some fists, sharp angles and flex‚Äôd feet thrown in for punctuation, characterize her style.
Jeff Quast as her straying husband, Frank, (the owner of the Belmont Hotel) finds himself in desperate circumstances as his business disappears ‚Äď a familiar story in 1929. The couple‚Äôs nanny, Martha (Renee Guittar), hooks up with a bootlegger friend to save the day and win Frank‚Äôs affection. There‚Äôs a larger price to pay, of course, but with the bills paid, the party starts, which sets up all the opportunity needed for some hot ensemble numbers. ‚ÄúFeeling Good‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúFever,‚ÄĚ in particular, sizzle with Jazz Age abandon.
The ‚Äúhook‚ÄĚ in this show is much more interesting, however. Frank and Gail have a daughter, Lily, who would make for a cute diversion in any story, but in this one, she legitimately steals the show. A Broadway star in a kid-sized body, ten-year-old Dora Dolphin is a phenomenal performer. Peluso‚Äôs ‚ÄúCan‚Äôt Buy Me Love‚ÄĚ creation for her was just the thing for that moment in the show, and a nifty piece to show off this powerful little dancer. What a charmer!
Quast, as leading man, is one smooth, strong presence ‚Äď easily carrying his solo moments on the stage and slipping in and out of the ensemble with grace. He‚Äôs a dancer to watch. Guittar doesn‚Äôt quite have the ‚Äúbearcat‚ÄĚ persona, but she‚Äôs technically terrific. Let loose of that dancer heart, and blow me away! Featured dancer Elander Rosser earns a special mention for a consistently strong performance ‚Äď and a grand jet√© with spectacular height.
Vocalists Katie Gearty and Cameron Wright provided the only narrative, via the lyrics of familiar jazz-era songs, or tunes done in that style. Gearty‚Äôs steady vocal delivery in any range and tempo was impressive. Wright was close to bringing the audience to their feet with his a cappella tag on ‚ÄúIt Don‚Äôt Mean a Thing.‚ÄĚ
This, in fact, was the show‚Äôs quite fixable flaw. Moment after moment is beautifully set up in the number, but it drops into a ‚Äúbutton-less‚ÄĚ hole between them. The flow within each song was lovely; segues didn‚Äôt always connect. The story (without reading the program‚Äôs summary) was tricky to follow, especially given that the lyrics were often just an emotional reference to the plot points.
It‚Äôs a completely enjoyable evening, in any case. Let ‚Äėem hit you with a hot note and ‚ÄúGet Happy.‚ÄĚ It runs through September 29 at the Southern Theater.