Monday, November 16, 2015

"C.L.U." by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Ritz Theater

My grandparents' attic contained many delights for a kid, particularly a collection of vintage board games from the '50s and '60s that my aunties used to play. My cousins and I spent hours playing Risk, Masterpiece, MonopolyLife, and one of our favorites, Clue. Sometimes we'd even get the adults to join in. I took very detailed notes on my Clue sheet with my own system of shorthand. It was such delicious mysterious fun! Collide Theatrical Dance Company's new original piece C.L.U. captures that fun and mysterious spirit. Created by Artistic Director and Choreographer Regina Peluso along with new collaborator, Director Joshua Campbell, C.L.U. is a fun and entertaining evening of music, dance, and melodrama.

Collide's mission is to create original jazz dance musicals, i.e., tell a theatrical story through live music and dance. Since I love to watch dance but can't really fit it into my already too busy theater schedule, Collide is my excuse to branch out a little from the theater world into the dance world. I love how they're able to convey character, emotion, and story through movement, and they always have fantastic singers and musicians to accompany them.

The plot of C.L.U. is a little preposterous (I'm not even going to tell you what C.L.U. stands for), but allows for some silly and campy fun. A collection of oddballs are invited to dinner by a mysterious man named Mr. Bottie, who knows a secret about all of them. We see each character's sordid past in a dance flashback, from murder to bribery to arson. When Mr. Bottie turns up dead, conveniently just before intermission, it's the audience's job to guess who killed him and fill out a voting ballot similar to that Clue sheet I used to take such detailed notes on. But in this case there are no real clues, and I'm not sure the votes were actually counted (I'm a statistician in my day job, so if data is collected, I want to see the results!). The second act presents three different scenarios of who could have done it, which is fun to see, but an improvised dance based on the actual results would have been fun too.

the cast of C.L.U.
As per usual with Collide, the dancing is excellent and the choreography is specific to the character and story. The six fabulous dancers (Riley Thomas Weber, Alannah Renstrom, Jami Snively, Renee Guittar, Kole Nelson, and the impressive young Nico Lonetree) play different characters reminiscent of the color-coded Clue characters. Three actor/singers fill out the cast and accompany the three-piece band playing pop songs and standards. Jefferson Slinkard is the mysterious Mr. Bottie (I only wish got to hear more of his beautiful baritone). Ben Wagner not only sings and plays the nerdy nervous Howard Hayes, but he also joins the band on sax playing some out-of-this world notes. Jen Burleigh-Bentz is her usual fabulous self as reporter Jane Rum, as she sings and even joins in on a few dance moves.

At just over 90 minutes including intermission, and with a VIP option that includes drinks and snacks, C.L.U. is a fun and entertaining night at the theater. The thinness of the plot is more than made up for by the wonderful in-character dancing, great live music, and delightfully campy performances. C.L.U. continues through this weekend only at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis (discount tickets available on Goldstar).