BWW Review: SILENT DANCER at Salt Lake Acting Company
Three titans of the local arts scene collaborate hand-in-glove at Salt Lake Acting Company to experiment how dance can expand storytelling in a drama.
SILENT DANCER is intriguing.
This is a play, not a musical -- because there is no singing or no musical accompaniment. But there is dance, as the title tells us, and it is used silently (another clue from the title) and strategically to punctuate the emotions the characters are expressing.
SILENT DANCER Playwright Kathleen Cahill provides the words, with SLAC Executive Artistic Director Cynthia Fleming helming as director and Christopher Ruud offering his bounteous abilities as a Ballet West Principal to devise and incorporate the choreography into the actor's portrayals. With her credit on Broadway in "A Chorus Line," Fleming adds the element needed that shows the strength of the dancing to advance and deepen the story.
The SILENT DANCER premiere follows developmental workshops at SLAC's New Play Sounding Series and Sacramento's B Street Theatre.
The Jazz Age was an uproarious era, nowhere more so than in Manhattan. And the lives of three colorful characters of the period - perhaps the first widely popular celeb couple, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the notorious gangster Jackie "Legs" Diamond - are contrasted with a brother-and-sister dance team, Rosie Quinn and her brother Mike, who has One Dream: to break into musical film at its infancy. Rosie must first enduring the tyranny of a demanding socialite as her maid, and Mike is shipped off to war, returning emotionally wounded and more freely exploring his sexuality.
University of Utah Musical Theatre Program graduate Mikki Reeve is stunning as Rosie. Her dreams are realities in her eyes, and she expertly conveys her yearnings through her thoughtful speeches and skilled dance steps. As her brother, William Richardson is equally impressive and believable. There's a third standout, and not surprising since their characters are the most developed. Alice Ryan gracefully portrays Zelda. Noah Kershisnik as Scott and Austin Archer as "Legs" and a film director valiantly flesh out their underwritten roles.
Impressive is the dialect coaching by Adrianne Moore and the costuming by Nancy Hills, although it would have been nice to see more costume changes for Rosie.
What is joyous to watch in SILENT DANCER is how effortlessly the actors imbue their acting with articulated solo dance steps. Dialogue is communicated through a heightened state of physical expression instead of words alone. When words fail, there's dance.