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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
That's not to say that this latest rummaging through a hit making recording group's catalogue isn't bursting with energy and some spectacular dancing. Fans of the funky Earth, Wind & Fire band which created some of the hottest hits of the 1970s, probably won't mind the atrociously amplified music or the staging which often makes you feel you've landed at a rock concert at the Meadowlands instead of the elegant Hilton on forty-second street. It's just that director/choreographer Maurice Hines has failed to trim the dance numbers instead of letting them go on and on and on thereby stretching what would work best as a ninety minute show into two and a half hours that are likely to leave you as exhausted as if you'd been on stage yourself.
Hines leans towards jazz and street dance flavored gymnastic ballet rather than the tap dancing associated with his late brother Gregory Hines. The balletic routines are quite apt for the book by Heru Ptah, a newcomer who can't be accused of too much originality. He's dressed up what's essentially a dance concert with a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Red Shoes which was immortalized by the ballet movie of the same name.
In Ptah's adaptation the tale revolves around a teenager named Kalimba (Vivan Nixon) who lives in the projects with her single mom (an under-used and over-miked Ann Duquesnay) but dreams of being a dancer. Her dream, realized early on in the show, is complicated by a pair of glittery and magical red shoes. The Faustian story has the devil (Allen Hidalgo) double as red shoe making cobbler and narrator who leads us into the flashback of Kalimba's red shoes saga. His audience for that narrative is a little girl and another young would be player (Samantha Pollino playing young Emma with wit and charm, besides turning out to be quite a dancer). The imposing dance impresario with the prophetically named Victor Serpentine (Keith David) becomes the Devil's handmaiden. I'll bet my dancing shoes that you'll instantly guess the connection between him and Kalimba's mom.
The sound system made most of the lyrics unintelligible which may be just as well, since what you could hear wasn't anything to get excited about -- which includes songs newly minted for the show by Maurice White. Most of the songs, by the way, are sung by offstage singers rather than the characters.
Vivian Nixon dances up a storm as Kalimba, as does Michael Balderrama as Victor's choreographer and the show's romantic interest. The elaborate if often repetitious numbers provide the rest of the dancers with ample opportunity to show off super high kicks, amazingly agile, muscular bodies, and Paul Tazwell's colorful costumes. One of the more original numbers, "Getaway" is spoiled by not trusting the audience to get the airplane metaphor and instead hammering it home with jazzy lighting effects. Like everything else about this wannabe Movin' Out, the grand finale, "The Hot Foot Ballet," needs to hot foot it to a speedier conclusion.
The Internet Theatre Bookshop "Virtually Every Play in the World" --even out of print plays
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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