Dancing Up a Storm
By Geary Danihy
Do you have a little toe-tapper or ballerina in the house, or do you secretly dream of being in “A Chorus Line,” dancing around the kitchen as you dry the dishes humming “I Can Do That,” or does your heart beat just a little faster every time you hear the opening of “River Dance” or the signature dance number from “42nd Street”? Or maybe you just enjoy being entertained for a couple of hours by a group of extremely talented singers and dancers? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you should make your way up to Playhouse on Park in West Hartford to take in “I’d Rather be Dancing.” Before the evening is over you might very well be dancing yourself, for the production is, if nothing else, infectious.
There’s a lot going on up at Playhouse on Park, from Comedy Nights to its “...on the Edge Series” and its “Main Stage Series,” and then there’s it’s resident dance company, stop/time dance theater, founded by Darlene Zoller, who directed and choreographed (with a little help from the spirit of Bob Fosse, and flesh-and-blood Mike Barker and Spencer Pond) “...Dancing.” Zoller, who, among other things, teaches at the Hartt School in Hartford, is also a co-artistic director and founder of Playhouse on Park. As the show program notes, stop/time was created to “give an outlet to talented adult dancers who have not chosen dance as their career.” No, dance is not their career -- many are teachers in local schools or pursuing degrees -- but it is evident that dancing is their passion.
“I’d Rather be Dancing” has a frame, of sorts: a man dies before his time and finds himself before the Pearly Gates. St. Peter is on an extended coffee break and thus the gates are being guarded by two angels-in-training yearning for their wings, so it falls to the head honcho to judge whether or not the man should gain admittance or take the down escalator. That’s about it -- yes, it’s a little hokey, but it’s really all that’s needed to hold together a series of songs and dance numbers that embrace ballet, tap and interpretive dance a la Isadora Duncan.
There’s something in the show for just about everyone as the 17 dancers and four singers and actors present number after number, from “A Wild, Wild Party” (which is, in fact, a bit wild) to the final disco sequence. In between, there’s some nifty tap dancing -- and a bravura “Tap Jam” -- more gentle, balletic moments, and some ensemble work that could most likely (and does) raise the dead.
Some of the songs are less than memorable, but others are either pop standards or take-offs on familiar songs that are a lot of fun -- try “Bye, Bye Life,” sung to the “Bye, Bye Love” melody, or the very witty “If I Only Had My Wings,” a play on the classic “...Had a Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz” film.
If you thrill to the rhythmic pounding of dancing feet, or if you have tiny dancers dreaming, then “I’d Rather be Dancing” is for you. Make the trip to West Hartford and bring along your nascent tap dancers and ballerinas -- they will be transfixed and you, well, you will simply enjoy yourself (and perhaps spin around the bedroom or tap across the kitchen floor when you get home).
“I’d Rather be Dancing” runs through April 13. For tickets or more information call 860-523-5900, X10, or go to www.playhouseonpark.org