The Next Step
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
November 7, 2008
In It For Life Productions, Natalie Pausch, and Jason Marquette have put together an entertaining and eclectic evening of musical theatre that appeals to many audiences. The Next Step is a showcase listed as an "evening of original choreography" by director-choreographer Jason Marquette, but it isn't exclusively choreography. The evening is broken into two acts and they exist on their own in very different ways.
Act One is comprised of a variety of mostly musical theatre vignettes. The show opens with classic "Broadway-style" group number. The company of dancers demonstrate amazing energy and draw the audience along with them as they dance and sing with gusto. Marquette has a knack for classic Broadway chorus but it gets a little repetitive. Numbers like "Cross the Line" and "Room to Move" tell essentially the same story with very similar dancing, and "Please Don't Monkey With Broadway" is entertaining but a little crowded. The high points of Act One come when Marquette doesn't have the dancers singing. It is then that we can really enjoy the choreography. "The Mess Around" from top to bottom is a delightful and upbeat tap piece performed beautifully by Jackie Covas and Justin Wingenroth. Another gorgeous performance comes from Dylan Smith and Jeff Kuhr in the modern piece "A River Won't Flow." It is truly moving and both dancers flow beautifully. I found them hypnotic to watch. Due to incredibly distracting microphone problems and some painfully flat solos, the vocal work proved mostly to distract from rather than compliment the lovely choreography.
Act Two, titled "A Reel Dream Life," is where the magic really happens for The Next Step. Danny Gardner steals the show portraying a man hired to clean up an old nightclub. He cannot resist his passion for dancing even if it might cost him his job. After discovering an old movie camera he is whisked away into a world of a 1940s Harlem nightclub and the set is transformed. The story is very sweet, complimented with minimal dialogue. It is in "Harlem Makes Me Feel" where the live vocals really work. Gardner sings and taps effortlessly after his character has received a mortal gunshot wound to the stomach. It is touching and funny and the ensemble compliments his performance to perfection. Dorothy Mindur and Gardner perform an intoxicating tango in "Harlem Nocturne" that I know I will not soon forget. This act is technically impressive as well, with the lighting design by Tim Greeson to compliment the world Marquette has created nicely.
Overall the evening gives what it promises, an entertaining showcase of talented performers demonstrating a great deal of passion for the work they are portraying. Each ensemble member seems completely engaged at all times. In the end, I would have liked to see even more choreography from Marquette and heard less singing. It would make the show even stronger to lose the microphones and let us really melt into the different dimensions throughout. In It For Life Productions seem to have a lot going for them and I look forward to seeing them develop.