News flash! There’s a new theatrical dance company in town and it’s 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 “collision” of performance forms. It’s heavy on the dance side, to be sure (there is no spoken dialogue), but for Fosse/Robbins fans it’s a fabulous fix.
Although director/choreographer Regina Peluso’s tilt is toward the choreographer half of that title, she’s also a stellar dancer, anchoring the female lead, “Gail,” in this tweak of the “love strays … love reunites” theme. Squeaky clean extensions and pirouettes, soaring lifts, with some fists, sharp angles and flex’d 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 – a familiar story in 1929. The couple’s nanny, Martha (Renee Guittar), hooks up with a bootlegger friend to save the day and win Frank’s affection. There’s 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. “Feeling Good” and “Fever,” in particular, sizzle with Jazz Age abandon.
The “hook” 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’s “Can’t Buy Me Love” 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 – easily carrying his solo moments on the stage and slipping in and out of the ensemble with grace. He’s a dancer to watch. Guittar doesn’t quite have the “bearcat” persona, but she’s 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 – and a grand jeté 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’s 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 “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
This, in fact, was the show’s quite fixable flaw. Moment after moment is beautifully set up in the number, but it drops into a “button-less” hole between them. The flow within each song was lovely; segues didn’t always connect. The story (without reading the program’s summary) was tricky to follow, especially given that the lyrics were often just an emotional reference to the plot points.
It’s a completely enjoyable evening, in any case. Let ‘em hit you with a hot note and “Get Happy.” It runs through September 29 at the Southern Theater.