Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW REVIEWS: TEN CENTS A DANCE- More Song Than Dance

Ten Cents a Dance

Conceived and directed by John Doyle, Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Lorenz Hart; Scenic Design, Scott Pask; Costume Design, Ann Hould-Ward; Lighting Design, Jane Cox; Sound Design, Dan Moses-Schreier; Wig Designer, Paul Huntley; Movement Consultant, Dontee Kiehn; Production Stage Manager, Eileen Ryan Kelly; Musical Director & Orchestrator, Mary-Mitchell Campbell

CAST: Diana DiMarzio (Miss Jones 4), Malcolm Gets (Johnny), Donna McKechnie (Miss Jones 5), Lauren Molina (Miss Jones 1), Jane Pfitsch (Miss Jones 2), Jessica Tyler Wright (Miss Jones 3)

Performances through August 28 at Williamstown Theatre Festival/Main Stage; Box Office 413-597-3400 or www.wtfestival.org

Williamstown Theatre Festival is doing something daring and increasingly rare these days - presenting a new musical on the Main Stage for the first time in its history. The American premiere of Ten Cents a Dance, conceived and directed by Tony Award-winner John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, Company), features more than three dozen songs from the canon of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart performed by six actor-musicians in Doyle's signature style, telling the romantic story with their musical instruments as well as their voices. Divided into five episodes, the songs connect to each other thematically, despite their origins from a variety of source material.

The music of Rodgers and Hart is extraordinary, but it does not have the capacity to lift Ten Cents a Dance above the artistic level of a taxi dancer who can merely dream of twirling and leaping like a ballerina. Or, as in the case of the taxi dancer Miss Jones, represented by the five spitfire actresses here, she may dream of the man who got away, piano-playing crooner Johnny. Either way, my lament is that there is no dancing to speak of in Ten Cents a Dance, and with Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie as Miss Jones Five, it seems a downright shame not to see her do more than a few steps with Malcolm Gets or the other women in the ensemble. The show never feels static as there is continual movement around the stage (even the piano is on a turntable), but - hello - the story is about this girl who was a dancer.

As for the story, Johnny (Gets) sits at the piano wistfully recalling his lifelong love of Miss Jones, singing with the five women who portray her at different stages of her life. Lauren Molina is sweet, infatuated Miss Jones One; Jane Pfitsch is a little less innocent as Miss Jones Two; a little older and wiser is Jessica Tyler Wright's Miss Jones Three; Diana DiMarzio is the hard-boiled Miss Jones Four; and McKechnie's Five has seen it all. The conceit is that the women exist in Johnny's imagination, so he spends more than a little time appearing deep in thought or woeful between songs, and he often seems freaked out when they engage with him. However, they don't converse (this is not a book musical), so thoughts and emotions are telegraphed by longing looks and piercing gazes. This grows tedious and is sometimes kind of creepy, especially when a song ends and the women freeze like mannequins, implying that Johnny is either losing his mind or is in love with an inanimate object (shades of the film "Lars and The Real Girl").

For me, Gets is the heart of the show, steadily pumping its life blood with his accomplished piano accompaniment and easy-to-listen-to voice. As a classically-trained pianist, he is a perfect fit for a Doyle show, and he relates with the various Misses Jones with nuance appropriate to the points in Johnny's life where they intersected. All of the women have terrific voices and each gets her chance to shine individually and collectively. DiMarzio's vocal quality is distinct from the others and her rendition of "You're Nearer" has a little echo of Judy Garland. I have a soft spot for "My Funny Valentine," but I've never heard an angry take on it before Wright's interpretation. Many of the song intros are handled by McKechnie, and her "Where or When" is especially poignant. "Quiet Night" begins with Molina's clear as crystal tones, and Pfitsch convinces us that "It Never Entered My Mind."

Wright's bio indicates that she has a B.M. in Violin Performance and it shows. Pfitsch and Molina also handle the stringed instruments well and DiMarzio is pretty good with the reeds. The triangle suits McKechnie, although she can rhythmically beat on a snare and exhale a few loud blats from a trombone. However, suffIce To say that the performers are uneven on their assigned instruments, with strings generally faring better than brass and woodwinds. In fact, it might be better if they went with the less-is-more philosophy, as it appears that they're just trying to show off the actresses' versatility with the frequency of the instrument swaps. Even Gets has to slap at the double bass in one song while DiMarzio sits down at the 88's. It's difficult enough at times to differentiate the Joneses, owing to the similarity of their auburn wigs (designed by Paul Huntley) and floral print gowns, but it can be impossible to keep up with them when they switch to yet another instrument.

Scott Pask's set suggests the idea of a backstage rehearsal space with tiered platforms against the rear wall holding stacks of chairs, instruments, and music stands. In addition to the grand piano, the other focal point is a floor to rafters spiral staircase with beautiful scroll work. Lighting designer Jane Cox flanks the stage with banks of lights and uses a variety of effects to create moods that complement the music, and Dan Moses-Schreier's sound design balances voices and instruments well, with the echo feature occasionally added to the mix. Costume designer Ann Hould-Ward attires Gets in a nicely tailored, gray pinstripe three-piece suit, striped tie, and suspenders. Each of the Misses Jones wears a slightly different style in the big floral pattern - short sleeves, cap sleeves, straps, or off the shoulder - and some are more flattering than others. I am reminded of bridesmaids' dresses where one size or style does not fit all.

Doyle previously staged Ten Cents a Dance in 2002 at England's Watermill Theatre in West Berkshire and it travels to the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, following its run in Williamstown. His direction of this genre - arguably, his genre - is skillful and he draws emotional and nuanced performances from his stellar cast. The songs are unforgettable and will stay in your head, but you're unlikely to give the story any more thought than you would a dime novel.

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson (Diana DiMarzio, Donna McKechnie, Lauren Molina, Jane Pfitsch, Jessica Tyler Wright, Malcolm Gets)

 

 

  

 



THE CONCERT: A TRIBUTE TO ABBA Returns To Indian Ranch in August Photo
The Concert: A Tribute to ABBA returns to Indian Ranch in Webster, MA on Friday, August 4, 2023. Tickets go on-sale this Saturday, February 4 at 10:00 AM.

South Asian Showdown Competition Returns in March Photo
The 14th annual South Asian Showdown Competition will take place on Saturday, March 18th, 2023 at the world renowned Strand Theatre. South Asian Showdown will host 12 of the best Bollywood/Fusion teams from North America who will compete to be crowned the South Asian Showdown Champions! The last 13 years of the show have been very successful with strong support from sponsors and has sold out with an attendance of 1,400 people!

Kansas 50th Anniversary Tour Will Play Hanover Theatre in October Photo
KANSAS, America's legendary progressive rock band will celebrate five decades with their 50th Anniversary Tour: Another Fork In The Road, which includes a stop at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts on Thursday, October 12.

Shakespeare & Company to Launch Free Lecture Series BEHIND THE CURTAIN Photo
Shakespeare & Company is launching a new, free lecture series: Behind the Curtain, launching Saturday, Feb. 18, and hosted by Shakespearean scholar Ann Berman.


From This Author - Nancy Grossman

From producing and starring in family holiday pageants as a child, to avid member of Broadway Across America and Show of the Month Club, Nancy has cultivated her love of the art and respect for the... (read more about this author)


Review: TORCH SONG at Moonbox ProductionsReview: TORCH SONG at Moonbox Productions
December 8, 2022

What did our critic think of REVIEW: TORCH SONG at Moonbox Productions?

Review: LITTLE WOMEN: THE BROADWAY MUSICALReview: LITTLE WOMEN: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL
December 1, 2022

Have there ever been such devoted sisters as the four March girls, birthed by Louisa May Alcott in her postbellum semi-autobiographical novel LITTLE WOMEN? Director Ilyse Robbins shows her abiding affection for the story with her devotion to its heart and soul on display in the production of the 2005 Broadway Musical at Greater Boston Stage Company.

REVIEW: THE EDGAR ALLAN POE DOUBLEHEADERREVIEW: THE EDGAR ALLAN POE DOUBLEHEADER
October 28, 2022

If you have yet to reach your fright limit for the Halloween season, you still have two chances to experience chills of the dramatic variety at THT Rep at the BrickBox Theater in Worcester. Reprising the production she created for small, socially-distanced audiences of 20 in the early days of the pandemic, Artistic Director Livy Scanlon is performing THE EDGAR ALLAN POE DOUBLEHEADER in front of 290 stadium-style seats.

REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOWREVIEW: THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
October 26, 2022

Two hundred years after Washington Irving introduced the little hamlet of Sleepy Hollow and its superstitious denizens to the canon of American literature, the legend remains among the most enduring of stories that capture the imagination of adults and children alike, inspire questions about the supernatural realm, and scare the bejesus out of its audience.

Review: AUGUST WILSON'S JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONEReview: AUGUST WILSON'S JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE
October 22, 2022

JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE was the first Wilson play produced at the Huntington in 1986, the beginning of a 19-year relationship that saw all ten of his American Century Cycle plays chronicling the African American experience in the 20th century performed on the local stage.