Saturday, August 24, 2019

"French Twist" by Flying Foot Forum at Hanifl Performing Arts Center

Flying Foot Forum is taking their charming original dance musical French Twist on the road! They've performed it several times throughout their history, including at Park Square Theatre last year for their 25th anniversary, at which time I wrote: "A series of thrilling and entertaining dances loosely tell the story (with very little dialogue) of a group of friends in a cafe called "Chez Jojo" (the proprietor played by Joe Chvala, natch). With vibrant costumes, a detailed and eclectic set design, a mix of live and recorded music (and film!), the wonderful ensemble of dancers/singers/musicians brings this dream of Paris to vivid life." They've brought back that cast (mostly), and shortened it to just over an hour, with perhaps a few other small tweaks. It's a delightfully fun and quirky show. I caught it at Hanifl Performing Arts Center, the beautiful new home of Lakeshore Players Theatre. Here's where you can see it over the next few months:

Fairmont - Sept 28, 2019,
St Olaf College - Oct 26, 2019,
Grand Rapids - Jan 11, 2020,
Mankato - April 25, 2020,
Wykoff - May 30, 2020,

What follows is my review of the show at Park Square Theatre last year, which is virtually unchanged:

There's not really a plot to this story, it's more of a meandering experience through an idyllic Paris night. Each vignette tells a little story in itself, all woven together and flowing seamlessly from one to the next. You barely have time to recover from one breathless thrill before the next begins! Joe Chvala's choreography includes many styles but is consistent in its ingenious use of rhythm. There's tap dancing in which the dancers feet accentuate the rhythm of the familiar recorded song, more flowing traditional partner dance, and my favorite - the foot-stomping-body-slapping dance that beats out a rhythm all its own, with or without accompanying music. And of course, a night in Paris is not complete without the can-can!

This wonderful ensemble is made up of not only terrific dancers (including two other founding members of Flying Foot Forum, Jan Campbell and Karla Grotting), but also wonderfully expressive comedians. With exaggerated make-up and bright colorful flamboyant costumes, they ham their way through each little story. Live music accompanies some of the dances, including Peter O'Gorman on percussion (of drums, body, and voice), Eric Jensen on piano, and fabulous singers Brandon A. Jackson and Falicia Nichole. We also get to see a charming short film of music/rhythm/comedy created in a kitchen using only common kitchen equipment. [Update: no film this time, instead the kitchen scene is performed live, and it's great fun.]

The Andy Boss Hanifl stage has been turned into a charming and brightly colored Parisian cafe, complete with parasols, drapery, flowing blue fabric representing the river, and art (including that creepy face from Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge). Just when you think you've taken it all in, you find there's more to discover as a curtain is drawn back or you notice some detail (like a piano!) you haven't seen before. All of the elements of the show combine to create an atmosphere of fun and wonder (set design by Robin McIntyre and Joe Chvala, costume design by Cindy Forsgren and Joe Chvala).

photo by Loco f/x Photography