BWW Review: REEL TO REAL BY STOP/TIME DANCE THEATER at Playhouse On Park
Everyone loves going to the movies. The darkened theater, the anticipation of a dramatic/funny/thrilling/scary adventure, and the escapism that only a couple hours with a bucket of popcorn and a good film can bring. It is that feeling that comes to life in vivid color during REEL TO REAL, this year's annual production by stop/time dance theater at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. Once again, founder/director Darlene Zoller and her fabulous troupe of performers show off their high energy moves, enthusiastic performances, and show stopping production numbers to make for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
This year's show, as one might infer from the title REEL TO REAL, centers on the movies and our obsession as a culture with the escapism they provide. The storyline that is interwoven throughout the numerous numbers focuses on a man (Rick Fountain) who is locked in the theater and taken on a magical journey through a wide variety of film favorites by the "director" (Amanda Forker) and the "costumer" (Victoria Mooney). Besides the funny (and often silly) vignettes and performances by these three very talented actors/singers, the ensemble of dancers take on numerous songs told through a variety of dance styles (jazz, tap, hip-hop, ballet and everything in between). From familiar favorites such as "Good Morning Baltimore" from HAIRSPRAY and a thrilling "Cell Block Tango" from CHICAGO, to stranger (but entertaining) fare such as "Disco Star Wars" and a dance number with Groot from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the dancers does not disappoint. The evening flows quite well, with each subsequent song bringing new surprises and thrills.
As with past productions from stop/time, in REEL TO REAL, Ms. Zoller's choreography is thrilling, creative, and fresh. It is very clear that the group has worked very hard to deliver such a highly polished and professional show. One of the great things about a stop/time performance is seeing the ensemble perform together like a well-oiled machine, but also getting to see a number of dancers in featured roles. Besides the aforementioned songs, other stand out dance numbers were the "Peppy and George" tap number from THE ARTIST performed by Mr. Fountain and Lynsey Chartier, "Moses Supposes" from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN with Mr. Fountain, Ms. Forker and a thrilling tap performance by Meredith Longo, and the closing ensemble number "This is Me" from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.
The scenic design (by Dave Lewis) for REEL to REAL works well, especially the movie screen that functions as a curtain/entrance point for many numbers. Rider Q. Stanton's sound design was very good, with many of the recorded songs (for some of the dance numbers) sounding like they were being performed live on stage. His projections are also very effective, especially since film factors so prominently in this show. Aaron Hochheiser's lighting is strong, especially for numbers like "Cell Block Tango", and Lisa Steier's costumes are beautiful and add layers of color and texture to every performance.
REEL TO REAL by stop/time dance theater is something you simply have to see. After 16 years, this troupe continues to thrill, bringing the highest quality production to life on the Playhouse on Park stage. You can tell each and every performer is having a blast and not a single performance disappoints. If you are wondering whether a show like REEL TO REAL is for you, the short answer is yes. Don't miss your chance to see this amazing production before it is too late!
REEL TO REAL by STOP/TIME DANCE THEATER runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through April 7th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119
All Photos by Rich Wagner, Imagine It Framed.