Contact | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Contact, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman's Broadway hit boasts a Tony for best musical, but despite a skimpy script by Stroman and John Weidman, this is a dance concert marketed as a musical to attract a mainstream audience. Performed to recorded music (including classical, big-band jazz, hard rock, and cowboy swing), Contact consists of three variations on the theme of sexual longing. "Swinging" portrays an 18th-century lady on a swing being pushed by a servant as her aristocratic beau watches; when the lover leaves, lady and servant engage in erotic aerial acrobatics. In "Did You Move?" a beaten-down Mafia wife finds release in a fantasy pas de deux with the headwaiter of an Italian restaurant. "Contact," set in contemporary Manhattan, concerns a successful but suicidal advertising exec who finds new meaning in life when he picks up and partners a gorgeous gal at a late-night dance club.

Stroman has created ingenious dances for musicals directed by Harold Prince (Show Boat), Mel Brooks (The Producers), and the late Mike Ockrent (Crazy for You). Here, it seems, she needed someone to tell her to stop spinning out forgettable dances after the audience gets the point of the flimsy scenarios. This touring production is well performed and features interesting sets (Thomas Lynch) and lighting (Peter Kaczorowski) and wonderful costumes (William Ivey Long), but they go only so far toward redeeming an insubstantial, disappointing evening.

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