10 August 2009

Shall We Dance[?] - Sadler's Wells - Wednesday 12th August 2009

Synopsis (official version):

Set to a score comprised entirely of melodies by Richard Rodgers, Shall We Dance[?]tells the story of one man's extraordinary quest to find true love. His panoramic voyage transports us from the Orient to the Wild West by way of Russian folk dance, New York jazz and the delirious waltzes of a Viennese ballroom.

Synopsis (actual version):

The Guy works in a nightclub. There is a lot of dancing. The Guy can't find a decent shag, not realising that The Right Girl is nearby. He is picked up by a cute-looking drunk who becomes His Friend. Awwww! They join the Navy and sail off round the world. They land in Vienna [which is nowhere near the sea. The backdrops all show Notre Dame so this is obviously Vienna, France]. They gatecrash a ball; there is a lot of dancing. The Guy snogs a princess, not realising that The Right Girl is nearby. The Princess's boyf isn't best pleased. The Guy and the Cute Friend get chucked out. Boooo!

They go to Russia where some creepy puppet show is being performed at a fair; there is a lot of dancing. The Guy snogs a peasant girl, not realising that The Right Girl is nearby. The Peasant Girl's boyf isn't best pleased. The Guy and the Cute Friend get chucked out. Booo!

They go to Some Oriental Place [with a Chinese Dragon and music from The King and I, so this is obviously Beijing, Thailand]. They gatecrash a betrothal ceremony; there is a lot of dancing. The Guy snogs the bride-to-be, not realising that The Right Girl is nearby. The bride-to-be's boyf isn't best pleased. He seals The Guy inside a barrel and throws it in the sea. Booo! The Cute Friend disappears completely from such plot as there is. Awwww!

The barrel is washed up on the coast of Oklahoma [which is nowhere near the sea], where there is a Hoe-down in progress; there is a lot of dancing. The Guy snogs a Cowgirl, not realising The Right Girl is nearby. The Cowgirl's boyf isn't best pleased. The Guy gets chucked out. Boooo!

The Guy returns to Noo York and goes to a seedy club. There is a lot of dancing. The Guy snogs the Mafia Boss's moll, not realising that The Right Girl is nearby. The Mafia Boss isn't best pleased. He shoots at The Guy but misses and kills The Moll. The Guy isn't best pleased. He kills The Mafia Boss. The Guy finds The Right Girl! She has Loved Him All The Time and The Guy Never Realised! Hurrah! There is a lot of dancing!

Adam Cooper: The Guy
Emma Samms: Swing Girl
Lorraine Stewart: European Girl
Rachel Muldoon: Russian Girl/Dance Captain
Noi Tolmer: Eastern Girl
Pip Jordan: Wild West Girl
Sarah Wildor: Slaughter Girl
Ebony Molina: The Right Girl
Tom Dwyer: The Friend

Creative Team:
Director, Choreographer and all round luvvie: Adam Cooper
Musical Supervisor: Richard Balcombe
Designer: Paul Farnsworth
Lighting: Paul Pyant
Video projection: Thomas Gray
Sound: Matt McKenzie
Associate Director: Kenn Burke
Mr. Cooper's muscles lovingly buffed up with: Johnson's Baby Oil

I'm on the warpath, filled with righteous anger. I'm writing to The Daily Mail, Watchdog, Lynne Truss and anyone else who will listen. The title of this show is a quotation, taken from the great number in Rodger's and Hammerstein's The King and I, "Shall We Dance?" You know the one (altergethernaw):

"Shhhhaaall weeeee dance? pumpumpum

On a bright cloud of music shall we fly? pumpumpum

Shall we dance? duh um pumpum

Shall we both say 'Goodnight' and mean 'Goodbye'? umpumpum

Or perchance pumpumpum when the last tiny star has left the sky deedeedee

Shall we still be together with our arms around each other

And will you be my new romance?

On the clear understanding that this kind of thing could happen

Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?" duh um pum pum

and, as you can see from the context of the verse, the use of the word "shall" means this refers to a possibility and is therefore clearly a question, not an imperative. And as we all learned on practically our first day at school, along with our teacher's name and the location of the toilets in case of emergency, questions are followed by a question mark. So where's the question mark, Mr. Cooper? Harrumph!

Even without punctuational indignation, the evening got off to a rocky start. It pissed down with rain (we're talking 40 days and 40 nights here) and we discovered that our favourite pre-Sadler's Wells greasy spoon caff now closes every day at 4pm, so we were cold and wet and there was no chance of a lovingly-crafted friedeggsbeanschipsandacuppateathreefiftydarlincheers. I could have cried. So I wasn't really in the best frame of mind when the curtain went up. Still, things could have been worse. I could have actually been in this. Honestly, what a crock of banal shit.

This was just a lame excuse for a rummage through the dressing-up box (Oooh look, here's a stetson. We can do a cowboy dance! I've always wanted to do a cowboy dance! And a peasant blouse. Can we squeeze in a Russian section somehow?) and a chance to throw together some well-known (and some considerably more obscure) show choonz, cobble them together with some vague semblance of a plot that requires a lot of dancing and stalk around the stage looking moody, wearing a black vest so that we can all see your biceps. And, preferably, adulate.

Well, there seemed to be plenty of people in the audience last night prepared to adulate at the shrine that is Adam Cooper. But I'm not of one of them. Sure, Cooper can hoof it up. But choreographer or dramatist he ain't. You would have thought that someone with all his classical training, who spent many years perfecting his craft under Matthew Bourne (no sniggering at the back, please) could put a few dance steps together and come up with a decent storyline. But Shall We Dance [?] just shows the truth of the Oriental proverb: The Pupil must become better than the Master in order to become a Master himself, Grasshopper. But the Pupil hasn't learned, preferring outward show for inner depth. The choreography is flashy yet uninspired, empty and repetitive (the same lifts occur time and time and time again). The "storyline" would disgrace Jackanory and has the dramatic shape of a plate of cabbage. There's no characterisation, just Adam Cooper. The one inspired section of the entire evening - the tapdancing Hoe Down - comes too late to save the show from banality. Cooper, carefully togged out entirely in black to draw the eye, places himself both outside and above rather than of the company throughout the entire evening. The craving for adulation is almost palpable, but as Dorothy eventually discovers in The Wizard of Oz, if you pull back the curtain and look past the smoke and mirrors, The Great and Powerful Oz is a bit of a humbug, a false idol. And one that can't punctuate.

GEEKERY: Rodgers is one of only two persons to have won an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy, a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize (Marvin Hamlisch is the other).

Rodgers was considering quitting show business altogether to sell children's underwear, when he and Hart finally got their first hit in 1925.

1 comment:

JohnnyFox said...

Love the Sesame Street video, and so glad to know Richard Rogers pulled out of children's underwear ...