Directed by Wayne Cilento
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Continuing the legacy of the late Lee Theodore who established the American Dance Machine on 1976, Nikki Feirt Atkins founded the American Dance Machine for the 21st Century in 2012 “to create a living and vibrant archive of classic and current notable music theatre choreography.” This remarkable archive is celebrated in AMD21’s current offering at The Joyce Theater through Sunday January 3, 2016.
“American Dance Machine for the 21st Century” is directed by Tony Award winner Wayne Cilento (“Wicked,” “Sweet Charity” revival, “Aida,” “The Who’s Tommy”). The twenty-one musical numbers are staged by a who’s who of Broadway’s master dancers and choreographers including Donna McKecknie, Robert La Fosse, Pamela Sousa, Gemze de Lappe, Mia Michaels, Niki Harris and many others. All performances feature a live band with musical direction by Eugene Gwozdz.
Audience members experience the legacy of Broadway in this most explosive dance spectacular in years. Twenty-two dancers and eight musicians perform twenty-one favorite Broadway dance numbers reimagined with a modern flare. American Dance Machine delivers awe-inspiring and visually stunning performances that, if permitted, would leave audiences dancing in the aisles or on the stage at the Joyce.
“American Dance Machine for the 21st Century” begins with a captivating medley of Jack Cole choreography featuring his signature geometric planning and high energy routines with movements that are always just right. Mr. Cole’s sense of theatrical effect and pacing are evident in “Beale Street Blues” from “The Sid Caesar Show,” ‘Rahadlakum” from “Kismet,” and Carnival in Flanders” from “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The program includes works from “A Chorus Line” (“The Music and the Mirror” featuring Lori Ann Ferreri, “Opening Audition,” and “One”), “Bubbling Brown Sugar” (“Sweet Georgia Brown”), “Crazy For You” (“Slap That Bass” featuring Marty Lawson and the Company), “Golden Boy” (“Fight from Golden Boy”), “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (“Coffee Break”), “Oklahoma!” (“Dream Ballet”), “Pippin” (“Manson Trio” featuring Shonica Gooden, Skye Mattox, and Tommy Scrivens), “Promises, Promises” (Turkey Lurkey Time”), “Singin’ in the Rain” (“Gotta Dance” featuring Paloma Garcia-Lee and Rick Faugno), “So You Think You Can Dance” (Mia Michaels’ chilling abstract narrative “Calling You” featuring Susie Gorman and Nicholas Palmquist), “West Side Story” (“Cool” featuring Amy Ruggiero, Mikey Winslow, and the Company), and “The Who’s Tommy” (“Pinball Wizard”).
Other works performed by the featured dancers and the company are from “Grand Hotel,” “After Midnight,” “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” (“Mr. Monotony”), and “The Will Rogers Follies.” Tyler Hanes, Mikey Winslow, and the Company display impeccable coordination and synchronization in the iconic “We’ll Take A Glass Together” as do David Paul Kidder and the Company in the electrifying “Our Favorite Son.” The addition to the December 26th program was “The White Cat Solo” from “Cats” performed by Georgina Pazcoguin/Skye Mattox.
Although all performances hold the audience’s interest with remarkable and intelligent dancing, not all are executed with the same precision. Bob Fosse’s signature jazz style with sultry hip rolls, smooth finger snaps, turned-in pigeon toes and specific, detailed movements was not as evident as it should have been in the “Mansion Trio” from “Pippin” and the fragileness of Fosse’s movements fell apart. The required isolations were missing as was the careful execution of the choreographer’s signature slow burn and broken doll walk. Despite this, the overall effect is satisfying and Shonica Gooden, Skye Mattox, and Tommy Scrivens are to be commended for their work on this challenging dance.
“The American Dance Machine for the 21st Century” has a short run through January 3rd and should not be missed by theatre and dance aficionados and all those who appreciate the importance of the dance. Ms. Atkins and the dancers in the ADM21 are to be celebrated for their enormous commitment to ensuring that the “artistry of each dance not vanish with the artists who created them.”