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A Christmas Thrance 2004--Oy Vey, And Yet Another Slightly Sarcastic, Sparkling Thrantastic Jumpin' Jubilee

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Presented with a lot of charm, broad smiles, and tongue in cheek, this work by director/choreographer Jessica Schroeder and her 19-performer ensemble gives a holiday meaning to the word "thrance": a combination of the words theatre and dance. This production works well and not so well on various levels. It's something like a karaoke night for dancing, ending in a result of variable quality, but the energy and heart bubbles over in abundance throughout. The troupe dances interpretively at times or just moves to the mood and beat of the music, trying to connect with the lyrics. Some of Schroeder's choreography is loose, light and airy, some classical, featuring a good deal of comedy, and then she hits you between the eyes with unexpected starkness through violent episodes and cast interactions. Her moves encompass a world of different feelings, and she ties them into the emotions of the Christmas holidays. She then sets it in the 1950s and early 1960s for some unknown reason, perhaps to use Hula Hoops in a wonderful little number; maybe it's for the campy go-go boots.

The recorded music here--kudos to lighting/sound operator J. Phillips--is quite interesting with a few, mild irreverences, i.e. Leon Russell's "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You," Chandler Travis' "Merry Christmas Anyway," Duke Ellington stylizing "The Nutcracker Suite," and Count Basie's "Sleigh Ride"--you get the gist. But the dancing or thrancing takes centerstage. Some dancer/thrancers don't seem to have mastered synchronicity or proper form, so Broadway's chorus line gypsies need not feel threatened.

On the plus side, the last two, somewhat lengthy numbers of the first act, involving the entire cast, are nearly stunning in concept and creative rendering. Also the solos, including Schroeder and Kelly Grete Elert, are quite finely executed. The finale culminates makes the audience collectively gasp at Etta Ray's consistently apropos and terrific costuming for this small production.

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