After several seasons of mediocre musicals, Mark Danni has finally found a formula that works at TheatreZone. "Grand Hotel," a celebration of life at Berlin's best boarding place, marks a second consecutive triumph for the group. Music, dance and creative elements combine for a brilliant night.
I've often been tough on Danni for trying to wedge full-scale musicals onto TheatreZone's small stage. He and choreographer Karen Molnar deserve full credit here for taking a mammoth 33-person cast, chopping it to 16 and preserving both the show's rhythm and making it look fluid on stage. Their refurbishment of "Grand Hotel" represents a sublime palace that beckons for guests of every stripe.
The show that remains has been whittle down to the basics: lies, deception, truth, beauty, honesty. Think of it as "Moulin Rouge" in Berlin. Basically, being deceitful gets you nowhere, while being pure means you stand a chance of coming out ahead. But anything can happen in the hallways of the "Grand Hotel!"
Faced with the prospect of a stage full of people, Molnar makes her choreography both aggressively grand and beautifully simple. Repetition, whether it be sweeping circles, the tight turns of a waltz or the arc of the cast whirling and swirling through the multiple drapes attracts the eye and dazzles the mind.
One of the night's best sequences sees Byron DeMent (so effective as the cancer-stricken Kringelein) leading a rousing Charleston. DeMent and TheatreZone favorite Larry Alexander face the audience, kicking, twisting and turning while the ensemble faces upstage, hands in the air, also kicking.
Emboldened by liquor and dance, he leaps into the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. As the music plays louder, the legs kick higher and the dance grows more frenetic. Louder. Higher. Faster. A whirl of merriment - with DeMent and Alexander giving the audience glee with every kick.
Megan Jimenez practically steals the show as blonde bombshell wannabe Flaemmchen, a typist with big dreams, no savings and not much sense. Jimenez gives an electrifying show as she dances her dreams with "Girl in the Mirror" and accompanies the delightful Two Jimmy's (Aaron Reeder, Gaston Edmond) on "Maybe My Baby."
Charles Fornara's seven-piece band brings "Grand Hotel" - and its 1920s tunes - to life like few at TheatreZone. I was tapping my foot right along to the Charleston. The show's music - and the band - is superb.
Chris Silk is the arts writer and theater critic for the Naples Daily News. To read the longer version of this review, go to: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/jan/11/review-theatrezone-naples-grand-hotel-tickets/
Photo courtesy TheatreZone