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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Contact Starts Its Tour in San Francisco

Also see Richard's review of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told


After four weeks of rehearsal and one week of previews, Susan Stroman and John Weidman's dance play opened to an enthusiastic audience Tuesday night. The musical easily transferred over to the proscenium stage. It was also a spark of genius that the SFX Theatrical Group and Scott Nederlander decided to put the production into the Curran instead of a barn like Orpheum or Golden Gate. The dance play fits perfectly into this gem of a theater. Even the set looks better than the Lincoln Center Production. There are plush green velvet curtains for back ground in the first two scenes. The stage is now surrounded with a golden gilt three sided picture frame. In the third and final scene, the velvet drapes gives way to the modern New York apartment of the advertising executive and interior of the swing dance club. It is a very effective change of scenery.

This is a different Contact than what we saw at Lincoln Center since the stories have been changed slightly to suit the new cast. However, it was just as exciting and passionately charged. Also, it was redesigned for frontal viewing which allows for better viewing than from the sides of Vivian Beaumont looking down on the dancers.

All of the dancers are first rate and give dazzling performances, especially in the third and final scene. The opening scene which was based on Swinging, Fragonard's 1767 painting of an aristocratic young lady frolicking in a forest glade soon becomes a real life menage a trios. The trio of excellent dancers, Keith Kuhl, Mindy Franzese Wild and Andrew Asnes, were distinctively inventive. The acrobatic erotic alterations were amazing on and off the swing. All this to Stephane Grappelli's take on Rodgers and Hart's, "My Heart Stood Still."

The second scene took place in the '50s at an Italian restaurant with a timid housewife pathetically excited at the prospect of a dinner out with her menacing lout of a husband. Meg Howrey was the retiring housewife and was truly touching. She played the role more pitiable than did Karen Ziemba. However, Meg danced like a dream when she fantasized while her husband left the table "looking for rolls". She was light on her feet as she whirled about the restaurant with the waiters and bus boys to "Anitra's Dance" from Peer Gynt Suite, "Waltz Eugene" from Eugene Onegin and "La Farandole" from "L'Alesienne Suite No 2" by Bizet. She has an Imogene Coca face that showcased a much abused wife.

After the intermission comes the piece de resistance, the one-hour "Girl in the Yellow Dress". This is the most exciting piece of the production, the story of a discontented, suicidal, advertising executive (played by Alan Campbell) who wanders into an enigmatic swing dance club and encounters the "Girl in the Yellow Dress" (played by Holly Cruikshank). Alan is delightfully awkward in his attempted encounters with the girl. Even his pas de deux with the girl at the end is marvelous.

Holly Cruikshank has made this role her own. She is much more athletic than Deborah Yates, and reminds me of Cyd Charisse. She has wonderful legs and picks her way across the floor with the grace of swan. She is eye-catching, majestic and uncompromising in her dance; a beautiful performance. With the melodies of swing bands in the back ground, the dancers outdo themselves whirling, jumping and spinning in the jive numbers. Their dancing to Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" is superb and brought down the house.

This is a great night of dance in the theater and the Susan Stroman and John Weidman choreography is outstanding. The audience loved it and arose in unison on opening night to give the dancers standing ovations. Susan and John both came out with the cast to accept the grateful applause. It was a thrilling night in the theater. Contact runs through June 24 at the Curran Theatre. Tickets are $37 - $80. Call 415-512-7770 or visit www.bestofbroadway.com.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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