C.L.U. produced by Collide Theatrical Dance at the Ritz Theater

CLURemember the old board game, “Clue?” Ever seen a dance version of it? In Collide Theatrical Dance Company’s “C.L.U.” the saucy maid may poison the victim in the kitchen, or the malevolent Ms. Snow strangle him in the bedroom (or was it the butler with the knife in the dining room?), but they all chassé and jeté through the intrigue in fine style.

Billed as a “choose your own ending murder mystery dance musical,” the show delivers on all of it. Ok, it’s silly, but go for the dancing! You will not be disappointed. Artistic director and choreographer Regina Peluso has produced fairly large-cast shows in the past, but this one has been pared down to her star dancers.

The story. Guests have been invited for the weekend at a mansion under mysterious circumstances. The butler, Wentworth, played by the tall and lithe, Riley Thomas Weber sets the stage – the final touches for the dinner – just as the first guest arrives. There are ample opportunities for Weber to beautifully execute his signature spins and turns (fouetté en tournant, if I have my ballet terminology right) especially when the weekend’s events spin out of control.

We’re introduced first to Jane Rum, played by Jen Burleigh-Bentz. Jane Rum is a reporter who feeds on misfortune, but Burleigh-Bentz’s main role is to sing, sing, sing! From Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to the sultry “Bourbon in your Eyes,” Burleigh-Bentz has the chops to throw them all right back at us. She’s great.

Second to arrive is the swathed-in-black Ms. Snow (Alannah Renstrom) – a femme fatale if ever there was one. Renstrom is not only an accomplished dancer, she holds her own on that stage.

The maid (Jamie Snively) soon appears – a dangerous little dynamo with spectacular splits and attitude. Her story is revealed in a dance/pantomime to the Dixie Chicks “Earle,” if that tells you anything.

Renee Guittar never fails to dazzle me. Playing the young, boozy actress, Rose, she executes difficult choreography with aplomb. Her dancing is just so clean! Even playing a drunk!

Kole Nelson as the slimy Senator Will Coin slides right off the floor into a standing position as easily as you and I put one foot in front of another. YouTube this, Mr. Nelson. I want to see it again.

Ben Wagner and Nico Lonetree both play Howard Hayes, the clumsy geek with a childhood secret. Wagner does more than double duty, playing a character in the mystery game, singing with the band, and soloing on sax, as well. Not the usual “triple threat” one speaks of in the theater, but impressive, nonetheless. Lonetree dances as the young Howard and shows a smooth, confident mastery of his art already – at just 18 years old. I’d say he’s a natural!

Their host at this mysterious party, Mr. Bottie, plays the narrator role, as needed, and with a name like that sets up a crazy who’s-on-first-like sequence in Act II when the bodies litter the floor. Jefferson Slinkard, with the required resonant basso speaking voice and diabolical laugh, is a dandy fit for the part.

A very capable trio of musicians backs them up: Doug Rohde on piano, Sean O’Hea on drums and Ryan Hayes on bass. The trio slips from one musical genre – from classic rock and pop to jazz – with ease.

The idea for this, which I would assume is Peluso’s, is an absolute winner, and the dancing so classy. The story line is filled with frothy twists and turns, which require the insertion of a narrator, unfortunately. There were times when the knotty plot bumped along without us. Had there been a stronger directorial concept and execution, the transitions would have knit the whole wacky idea together instead of unraveling in between dance numbers. It got messy.

Still, it’s good fun. The show runs only through November 22, so move quickly if you don’t want to miss it.


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