Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Vices: A Love Story

Also see John's review of Knish Alley

Holly Shunkey and Marcus Bellamy
The Caldwell Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Vices: A Love Story.  This innovative revue features a story by Ilene Reid and Michael Heitzman, and music and lyrics by Ilene Reid, Michael Heitzman, Susan Draus and Everett Bradley.  Reid, Heitzman and Bradley received a Grammy nomination for the song "Throw That Girl Around" from the Broadway musical Swing in 1999.  Vices: A Love Story is an exploration, through song and dance, of the fate of a romantic relationship amidst a sea of so many possible vices.  

Vices: A Love Story is both theatre and performance art.  A cast of four singer/dancers present musical scenes that focus on different modern vices or addictions such as smoking, drinking, chocolate, work, shopping, plastic surgery, gambling and sex.  The scenes are woven around the story of a romantic couple.  Two dancers, who neither sing nor speak, tell their story through dance alone. The production design includes extensive projection work that enhances the visual experience.  Director Clive Cholerton has tackled the daunting task of marrying all the facets of this show with great finesse.   

It is difficult to take one's eyes off dancer Holly Shunkey.  At a state of rest, her body is already a work of art sculpted by her craft.  In motion, her lines near perfection in their strength and beauty. She has the "it" factor so many technically gifted dancers lack.  She knows how to be entirely present in the moment, and how to act with her whole body without ever speaking.  She is well partnered with the handsome Marcus Bellamy.  Choreographer A C Cuilla has given the couple some wonderfully choreographed moments both sensual and elegant; and both dancers are fearless in their commitment to the demanding choreographic vision.

Natalie Venetia Belcon as Woman #2 has surprising range as a singer and actress.  She belts out the disco-inspired "Do You Mind if I Smoke?" with the sound of a soulful Chaka Khan at her best.  Later in the operetta-inspired spoof "Charge It" she emerges with legit soprano high notes. Her over-exaggerated lip-quivers on the held notes of that song, and stereotypical Boca Raton accent in "Nip & Tuck" are both good for a laugh.  Leajato Amara Robinson as Man #2 performs an impressive a capella "Some Like It."  It is a great partnering of the right singer with the right song as he accompanies himself rhythmically by tapping and smacking his own body.  Carlos L. Encinias as Man #1 is at his best in the old-Hollywood inspired "Chocolate," complete with tapping dancing in silver and brown tails.  There are times in the show when his voice tends to be too reedy to listen to for long, as it lacks warmth. Lara Janine as Woman #1 does a lovely job with the song "Fly", but seems the least seasoned of the cast—more pop than musical theatre.

The variety of musical styles in the show provide interest as they are partnered with scene and costume changes that match.   Elements of arrangements and instrumentation provide a sense of cohesion rather than disparity. The most difficult ensemble piece is a jazz number, complete with a scat section, that even the Manhattan Transfer would be hard pressed to sing.  The only song that is musically uninteresting is the Johnny Walker tribute song, "Johnny."  It just goes nowhere, and is in too low of a key to allow the singer to let loose on it. With so much strength throughout the show, the show's final moment needs to be made stronger, either through staging or music. The projection design for this show adds an element to the production value that sets it apart as fresh and interesting. The way in which the elements of dance and technical design have been incorporated in Vices: A Love Story elevate it to more than it's components. Passionate, humorous and visually engaging, Vices: A Love Story is the show to see in south Florida this summer.  

Vices: A Love Story will be appearing th rough August 2, 2009 at the Caldwell Theatre.  The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs.  The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, FL.  Performance times are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM.  For information and/or tickets you may contact them by phone at 561-241-7432 or on line at  

Female Dancer: Holly Shunkey*
Male Dancer: Marcus Bellamy*
Woman #1: Lara Janine*
Man #1: Carlos L. Encinias*
Woman #2: Natalie Venetia Belcon*
Man #2: Leajato Amara Robinson*  

Director: Clive Cholerton
Musical Director: Jon Rose
Choreographer: A C Ciulla+
Scenic Design: Tim Bennett
Lighting Design: John D. Hall
Sound Design: Lane Starrat
Projection Design: Sean Lawson
Costume Design: Alberto Arroyo
Stage Manager: Robert Herrle*  

*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.  

+Indicates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers society.  

Photo: Sean Lawson

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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