September 24, 2001
Raves for 'Contact'
by Deborah Stone
The acclaimed, dazzling Broadway hit, "Contact," recently had a limited engagement at The Paramount Theatre, electrifying and exhilarating those fortunate to catch one of its few, coveted performances.
The Tony Award-winning show, by director/choreographer Stusan Stroman and writer John Weidman, is a welcome respite from the many recycled revivals, tributes and British imports that have dominated the musical market of late.
It is fresh, pulses with sensual energy and captivates audiences with its inventiveness and imagination.
Everything about this production is delightful and deep-down satisfying, from its high-octane dancing to its choice of delectably eclectic music (Dion, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Beach Boys, Robert Palmer, Benny Goodman, jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and classical greats Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Bizet), hot costumes and sleek sets.
"Contact" is a dance play, consisting of three short stories that deal with various forms of human connection and the pursuit of love. Stroman uses her choreography to tell these stories; choosing movement to make points about modern life, relationships and the longings that exist within each one of us. "Contact" is more than a highly entertaining evening; it's the most original and irresistible musical of the season. Seattle audiences can only hope it returns - soon! For information about upcoming shows for the Paramount's 2001-2002 season, call 206-315-8108.
In the opening vignette, "Swinging" (inspired by Fragonard's famous 1767 painting, "The Swing"), an aristocratic young woman (Mindy Franzese Wild), dressed in period attire, frolics in an idyllic forest with two men (Andrew Asnes and Keith Kuhl) - one her attentive suitor, one a servant. She teases and tantalizes each of them, creating an atmosphere of highly charged eroticism, in what becomes a humorous menage a trois. In the second story, a timid, unhappy 1950s housewife (Meg Howrey) uses her dancing fantasies to escape from her bullying, loutish husband (Adam Dannheisser), as they dine together in an Italian restaurant in Queens. The distress and pain she shows in her face disappear when she instantly transforms herself into a sparkling ballerina, soaring around other diners in the restaurant and tangoing with willing busboys and waiters. Howrey does terrific work as she undergoes the change from an oppressed, birdlike woman to a model of grace and beauty. She seems to surprise herself in her newfound abilities, dancing freely and joyfully in the dreamland she has created. Sadly, though, she must return to her stark, cruel reality and, as the light fades, the mixture of emotions on her face is heartwrenching in its message. In the final piece, a successful, yet deeply unhappy ad exec (Alan Campbell) finds the golden girl of his dream, giving him reason to live. After botching a suicide attempt, the man wanders into a swing-dancing nightclub and spots a mysterious woman in a yellow dress (Holly Cruikshank), who becomes his unattainable object of desire. After failing many times to connect with her on the dance floor, he finally meets her and they dance to the steam of Gene Krupa's pulsating drum solo on "Sing, Sing, Sing." He, too, is eventually brought back to the painful reality of his world, but this time, help comes in the form of his downstairs neighbor, a woman he had only met briefly in the elevator. He realizes she is the girl of his fantasies and his wish for intimacy and joy are finally fulfilled in the magic of everyday. Cruikshank is amazing as the siren in yellow with her long limbs and sizzling sensuality. She easily woos, not only the men on the stage, but audiences enraptured by her striking presence and dazzling moves.