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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Ten Cents a Dance
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown MA

Ten Cents a Dance
Lauren Molina and
Donna McKechnie

Ten Cents a Dance is smooth, lyrical and innovative. The individual and group talent of its six performers might camouflage the intricacy and complexity of this Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart show. At Williamstown Theatre Festival through August 28th, the conception of vocals, instrumentals and dance follows piano-playing Johnny (Malcolm Gets) through various melancholic times or almost-relationships with five women. This makes for a delightful 80 minutes of breezy, tuneful theater. The music of Rodgers and Hart breathes!

Designer Scott Pask provides a winding and perhaps wrought-iron staircase which bends from stage floor to quite high ceiling. At the outset, Johnny, pensive and seemingly down on himself, haltingly descends, stops, wanders, situates himself on a piano bench with his back to the keyboard. At last, he turns and begins to play "Blue Moon." As he does so, the women, wearing similar long dresses (provided by costumer Ann Hould-Ward), slowly walk down the stairs. They were chorus girls and dancers. Their voices, now, make music.

As director, Doyle creates a lovely and varied evening through song, nuance, and delectable usage of instruments which include trumpet, clarinet, string bass, cello, viola, violin, triangle, drums, saxophones—and more. That the women facilitate with grace and skill, with voice or on an instrument, speaks to their versatility and the director's ability to fuse musical forms. At times, a performer plays violin and simultaneously sings.

Ten Cents a Dance hasn't a conventional plot and is anything but a familiar book musical. Its charm belies the dexterity required to make the performance successful. Gets sings and plays continuously. Recognizable on Broadway (The Story of My Life, Amour, The Moliere Comedies), Off-Broadway, and regional stages, he is adept on piano and vocals. Johnny has been down on his luck but responds as women from his past appear individually and collectively.

Donna McKechnie (Miss Jones 5) won a Tony Award for A Chorus Line and had Broadway turns in such shows as Company and On the Town. Diana DiMarzio (Miss Jones 4) appeared in the revival of Sweeney Todd on Broadway and has been Off-Broadway. Lauren Molina (Miss Jones 1) appeared on Broadway in Sweeney Todd and Rock of Ages. Jessica Tyler Wright (Miss Jones 3) was a Broadway performer in, yes, Sweeney Todd, Company and Lovemusik. Jane Pfitsch, on Broadway, was seen in Company and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

The sweet evening's flow is fluent yet appropriately benefits from silent moments. It is divided into five episodes as pace, beat and atmosphere vary greatly. The first and some other sets of songs conclude, for example, when women assume "freeze" positions. A dissolve takes place when "Isn't It Romantic" begins the second sequence. That particular portion of the production includes classics like "There's a Small Hotel," "Falling in Love with Love," and "My Funny Valentine." Loren Molina does a fine job on double bass while Pfitsch plays trumpet and everyone, later, plays sax.

One winner follows, pretty much, after another with "We'll Have Manhattan," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and (soon enough) "The Lady is a Tramp." You get the idea: everyone in the audience will choose favorites from the array of about 35 numbers, including reprises. Much credit should be given musical director and orchestrator Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Her arrangements facilitate a scene whether it be wistful or sexy or sparkling. John Doyle, who created the production, should simply take a bow.

Nothing is haphazard. Chairs have been specifically piled atop one another to lend tone. Jane Cox' lighting assists as mood shifts, early on, from The Blue Room, to a later grouping which includes "Ten Cents a Dance" and "At the Roxy Music Hall." While each number is given its full due, the presentation breezily flies by. Before one knows it, encores including "My Heart Stood Still" and "With a Song in My Heart" send everyone home happily humming. Those failing to catch a performance in Williamstown have another opportunity when it moves to the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey fairly early this September.

Williamstown Theatre Festival presents Ten Cents a Dance through August 28th. For tickets, call (413) 597-3400 or visit www.wtfestival.org.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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