Show stopper

Sugarcoating is for suckers. And this isn't a candy store.

Mixed Bill VI: Once More, With Feeling! April 11, 2010

Jazz, tap, ballet, modern.

The Troutt Theater exploded in a riveting display of coloring lights and graceful individuals. Some were theatrical, others were strongly soft, making sure every movement was shown with poise.

The dance department at Belmont hosts a mixed bill every year. It’s a chance to display the talent and show just how great the dancers are. And how great they were!

As the house lights dimmed, the show started with a slinky, modern/jazz/ballet performance entitled “Little Bit of History”. Pirouettes and hip rolling were popular. The dancers wore sparkly black and white costumes. The audience went wild and settled into their seats for a great show.

Every dance, whether it was fabulous or just so so, was perfectly executed. There were some favorites that need to take a bow for its exceptional choreography and performance.

“Little Bit of History” was one of the favorites. After the lights dimmed to black, there was a feeling the mixed bill was going to be one to remember.

“Look Ma, No Hands!”, “Back to the Boondocks”, “Unrest”, “Church” and “Dream Boogie” were no doubt resonating in the minds of the audience.

“Look Ma, No Hands!” opened with the curtain only showing the feet of the dancers and their whimsical knee-high socks. It was adorably creative. The audience was very amused. Audience members commented on how they loved the concept. Simply brilliant.

Dancers were clad in plaid for “Back to the Boondocks”, a tap number. Little Big Town “Boondocks” set the mood for a good time. It floated to the rafters, getting onlookers swaying in their seats. The number fit Nashville perfectly. The dance was a great tribute to South.

“Unrest” was a bit of a turn after the first intermission. It was a very modern dance; you could see the energy pulsating from the tendons all the way to the fingertips of the dancers. Strong movements made for a strong performance. Bravo!

The company came together for the performance of “Church”. This was another favorite among the audience. Laughter sparked as the audience was captivated and engaged. “Church” was the equivalent of a Southern Baptist Church. The preaching gets too long and church members get restless. People need spiritual as well as nutritional food. Gotta eat! Claire Warner, the reverend, was exceptionally comical.

The finale was the best part of the show. “Dream Boogie” featured every dance from “the Juba” to the “Jitterbug, “Doowop” to “Disco”, the “Hustle” to “Hip Hop”. Whoops and cheers exploded in the theater. Words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech were featured on a projection screen.

We cannot turn back.

Whether it be societal acts or dance’s evolution, we cannot turn back.

Overall, Mixed Bill VI was a huge success. If you get a chance to catch a performance, please do! You certainly will not be disappointed. I’ll bet ya you’ll be dancing in your seats and out of the theater.

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Grease Lights the Stage March 28, 2010

Grease is the word. It’s got groove. It’s got meaning.

The audience was groovin’ with the musical theatre program as the cast flawlessly performed Grease in the Troutt Theatre at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. It started out very intimate. Sandy Dumbrowski, Elizabeth Smith, and Danny Zuko, Deonte’ Warren stood on opposite ends of the stage with their beautiful duet of “Sandy”. Flared, long skirts and popped leather collars flooded the stage and carried the audience through this adorable 50s love story.

We all know the deal. Sandy and Danny meet over the summer and then coincidentally meet at Rydell High School. Reputations and social circles keep the two apart until they realize they need to change for each other. The early 1970s  Broadway musical, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, deals with love, sex and rock n roll in 1959.

Kenickie, Michael Rosenbaum, and the T-Birds entertained with their testosterone-filled rendition of “Greased Lightnin'” while the musical took a melancholic turn with “Hopelessly Devoted to You” performed by Sandy.

The entire cast did fabulously and everyone was on point. While everyone was a star, there were a few lightbulbs in the box that shined brighter than the others. My favorite of the night were Betty Rizzo, Lindsey Schroeder and Kenickie, Matthew Rosenbaum. Schroeder played it cool, strutting her stuff as if she owned the place (which she did!). She belted “There are Worse Things I Could Do” and looked fabulous. Rosenbaum is always great, truly transforming himself and embracing any character he’s given. I was eager to see how he would do as a greaser and he definitely impressed. He was light on his feet, powerful with his voice, and smooth in his mannerisms.

Special recognition does have to be given to Sonny, Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Doody, Ben Laxton, and Patty Simcox, Maggie McDowell. While these parts were semi-minor, Waterbury-Tieman evoked the best greaser, from his flawless strut to always fixing his coif. He was a greaser through and through and was so fun to see.  Laxton was the goof. “Those Magic Changes” showed off his heart-fluttering vocals. McDowell played the valley girl cheerleader, Patty Simcox, hilariously well. She was a mixture of fun and funny with just a dash of annoying. Perfection.

While the actors played their parts well, casting was a little off. Rizzo had long hair instead of the short tight-curled do we all know and love. Frenchie was extremely watered down. Her hair was in a tight up do. No pink? No flare? Come on! Jan’s hair was fine but should’ve been a few shades darker. And, hello, why not get a curvy girl to play Jan? I couldn’t really recognize who Jan was because she was too thin! Deonte’ Warren, Danny, was really great in the first act. I don’t know what happened between then and intermission but he took on a whole new level of corny. He was too teeny-bopper. Danny Zuko is supposed to be cool and Warren portrayed him as a corny push-over. Sandy, Elizabeth Smith, wasn’t quite right. She had no life to her face, especially during “Hopelessly Devoted to You”. Sure, the lyrics were sad but that’s about it. She definitely could’ve played up the desperation a whole lot more. Smith is a great singer. It would’ve been nice if she let go and truly got into the part. She redeemed herself in “You’re the One That I Want”.

The set was way too simple and a little disappointing. It seemed as thought the musical theater program was short in funding. If the play was in Massey Performing Arts Center, Grease would’ve blew the other plays of the year out of the water. The set is the muscle of the play. The parts seemed thrown together and kind of cheap.

Overall, Grease was something new and the actors did their job. They provided a lovely form of entertainment and made sure they perfected every step, every line before performing. Too bad the stage wasn’t up to par with the actors. If it was, Grease would’ve been one of the musicals written down in Belmont history as one of the greatest musicals ever done. Instead, Urinetown will always outshine Grease when one recollects the plays of the Belmont school year 2009-2010.