Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"The Great Gatsby" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at Luminary Arts Center

To begin their 10th anniversary season, Collide Theatrical Dance Company is not simply remounting their 2018 jazz dance musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, they're bringing us a new updated version of this familiar story. The narrative structure is different from the previous version, and it's a little longer (about two hours including intermission). But what's the same is the incredible dancing, accompanied by a live band and singers performing well-chosen pop songs. As the name implies, Collide brings us a collision of dance, music, and theater, and conveys story, character, and emotion simply through movement. It's a beautiful thing to witness. You can see it at the gorgeous Luminary Arts Center (formerly the Lab Theater) in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood for the next two weekends only.

Collide's Artistic Director Regina Peluso adapted the novel, as well as directing and choreographing the piece along with Heather Brockman, with additional choreography by some of the ensemble members. While often their shows have no spoken words, in this adaptation the character of Nick, narrator of the novel, speaks sections of the book to introduce characters and scenes, creating a nice framework for the story. The sections are well chosen to provide the proper narrative and remind us of F. Scott Fitzgerald's lyrical prose, including the famous final line "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Between the narration, we see scenes of Gatsby and Daisy falling in love, Daisy marrying the wealthy Tom, and Gatsby making his fortune in bootlegging and other illegal activities. There are the lavish party scenes featuring the entire company, and emotional duets as Gatsby and Daisy find their way back to each other, and Daisy makes her choice. The story plays out to its inevitable tragic conclusion, but don't worry, this is a musical, so after everyone dies, we still get to have a fun curtain call dance number to send you off into the night feeling a little less melancholy that this story usually leaves one.*

Brittany Brown as Daisy (photo by Alexis Lund)
Two members of the 2018 cast reprise their roles in this production - Patrick Jeffrey is the tall and
brooding Gatsby and Jarod Boltjes is the haughty and careless Tom. New to the mix is Nathan Huberty as Nick, who seamlessly transitions from the narrator, speaking the monologues with clarity and emotion, and a dancer and character in the story. In this version, Nick's girlfriend Jordan is instead his boyfriend Jordan (Javan Mngrezzo), giving the story a more inclusive and contemporary feel, and giving us the pleasure of watching two men dancing together in these traditional dances. Brittany Brown beautifully and expressively dances the role of Daisy, Renee Guittar embodies the fun-loving and daring Myrtle, and Noah Coon gets to perform an angry tap dance as Myrtle's cheated on husband George.

Patrick Jeffery as Gatsby with the ensemble
(photo by Alexis Lund)
The dancing in this show is spectacular and so much fun to watch - Jazz Age style with a modern flair. The entire ensemble performs beautifully and in synch, while also conveying character and emotion, including the junior apprentice company. And I have to give a special shout-out to ensemble member Gabriella Trentacoste, who must have skipped the closing weekend of Lyric Arts' A Chorus Line, in which she was an adorable Val, to do this show. Two overlapping dance-heavy shows is quite impressive, not to mention her great ensemble turn in Artistry's The Pajama Game this summer.

The theater formerly known as Lab is the perfect space for dance, with a large open space and great sightlines from the risers. The awesome four-piece is on a stage with golden steps at the back of the space, led by Ben Larson on keyboard. Two powerhouse singers Katia Cardenas and Ben Siglin take turns singing the songs that accompany the dancing. The company is dressed in gorgeous '20s era costumes  - lots of sequins and fringe for the women, well-tailored suits and fedoras for the men - that still allow freedom of movement.*

For ten years, Collide has occupied a unique space in #TCTheater - dance shows for musical theater lovers, like a musical (mostly) without words. Help them celebrate their anniversary with this gorgeous dance adaptation of a classic of American literature. Continuing through October 15 (click here for info and tickets).

*Some text borrowed from my review of the 2018 production.