Susan Stroman and John Weidman will officially premiere their propulsive new "dance play" Contact at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi Newhouse Theatre on Oct. 7. The show, which the duo hope will break new ground as a hybrid theatrical genre, began previews Sept. 9. Karen Ziemba (Steel Pier), Boyd Gaines (Cabaret) and newcomer Deborah Yates star.
The piece is divided into three parts. In the first story, "Swinging," three 18th-century French figures carry out a romantic intrigue to jazz violinist Stephane Grappeli's rendition of "My Heart Stood Still." Much of the section's acrobatic, and erotic action is played out upon a large swing suspended from the rafters. Sean Martin Hingston, Stephanie Michaels and Scott Taylor play the trio.
Story two, "Did You Move?," stars Ziemba as an unhappy Queens woman trapped in a suffocating marriage to a laconic brute. With few options open to her, she finds release in romantic fantasies backed by the music of Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Bizet and Puccini. These flights of fancy are enacting in a neighborhood Italian restaurant, with patrons, waiters and busboys all taking part. Stroman continues her trademark use of organic props by drawing trays, buspans, dessert carts and rolls into the choreography.
The final piece, "Contact," takes place in contemporary New York and, appropriately, features the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers ("Put a Lid on It"), The Beach Boys ("Do You Want to Dance?"), Benny Goodman ("Sing, Sing, Sing"), Robert Palmer ("Simply Irresistible") and Dion ("Runaround Sue"). The story follows a suicidal advertising executive who, stumbling into an after-hours swing-dancing club, encounters a mysterious, beautiful woman in a yellow dress. Finding in the woman a reason to keep on living, he struggles to meet her, but is constantly thwarted by rivals more skilled on the dance floor.
"Contact" is based on a true experience Stroman had one night, when she visited a dance club in the Meat Market district. There she witnessed a fascinating woman in a yellow dress who took turns dancing with different partners throughout the night. Watching from the sidelines, Stroman thought, "she's going to change someone's life tonight." "Contact" -- which lasts about an hour and dominates the evening -- features Yates, a relative unknown, as the yellow-clad one. Gaines, a two time Tony-winner (who basically had to learn how to dance from the ground up for this production) plays the ad exec.
Contact is directed and choreographed by Stroman and features a cast of 22. Stroman burst onto the scene several years ago when she choreographed the Kander and Ebb revue And the World Goes Round . She went on to choreograph Crazy for You (Tony Award) and Show Boat. Last year, she choreographed a landmark production of Oklahoma! in London.
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