By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
“This may be my last chance, to tell the truth about what happened. Then whoever reads this won’t make the same mistakes I have.”
These are the opening lines that Vincent (Emmy-winning choreographer Travis Wall) types out in Shaping Sound’s latest production: After the Curtain. The show transports its audience to the height of Vaudeville, where Travis’s Vincent is the director of a performance arts company that is unraveling right before his eyes.
The production’s stars, Lily (Chantel Aguirre) and Clyde (Mason Cook)’s dysfunctional relationship deteriorates rapidly due to Clyde’s alcoholism. Meanwhile, Vincent’s bubbly best friend, Rose (Kate Harpootlian) has fallen for his older brother, Edwin (Rory Freeman)’s wife, Vera (Lindsay Leuschner) who also reciprocates her feelings but cannot find her voice to escape his tight grip. Vincent’s only allies are Rose and his supportive little sister, Charlotte (Gaby Diaz), as Edwin keeps his distance from Vincent and his twin brother, Leo (Nick Lazzarini), envies his success and looks for ways to undermine him.
However, the primary catalyst of the show is Vincent’s personal life. He has a broken relationship with Ellenore (Chelsea Thedinga), as he developed feelings for Rose’s brother, Sebastian (Austin Goodwin), and typed that Sebastian changed his life forever. That discovery leads Ellenore straight into the arms of the vindictive Luther (Teddy Forance), who has dark energy that greatly disturbs Vincent. To escape his abusive environment, Vincent created an alter ego, Jude (Lex Ishimoto), who itches to take over his life permanently.
After the Curtain is one of the darkest dance productions, I have seen. Despite a few lighthearted moments such as both Rose’s “Roxie”-like number and the company jazz number near the end of the show, a majority of the production is full of aggressive duets, trios, and quintets that push both the performers to new professional heights and the audience to the edge of their seats.
Travis, Nick, and Teddy along with associate choreographer Channing Cooke continue to push their dancers’ boundaries with their explosive choreography that will tug at the audience’s heartstrings. A bulk of these emotional movements comes in the form of Vincent and Jude’s showdowns and Vincent’s interactions with Sebastian. Travis continues to be one of my generation’s best dancers. His unique energy brightens every stage that he dances on and challenges every single member of the company to grow as an artist exponentially. Both Lex Ishimoto and Austin Goodwin stepped up to the plate in the main ways every time they interacted with Travis on stage. Lex infused Jude’s steps with contortionism that menaced Vincent to no end, while Austin harnessed the emotional spectrum to express Sebastian’s love for Vincent perfectly.
With every production, Shaping Sound continues to add new components to its story. One major element was adding characters into the show. In my interview with Teddy, he told me that for the first time, the dancers would become actors and portray these characters that inhabit this Vaudeville world. This was an excellent strategy, and I think that the company was very successful transforming themselves into these larger than life characters.
Another addition to the show was acrobatics. Near the decrescendo of the production, Vincent and Charlotte have this lovely aerial duet that will spark the desire of younger dancers to take their training to the next level. Both Travis and Gaby did that routine effortlessly, and the audience’s hearts will soar with delight watching these two So You Think You Can Dance alumni take flight.
After the Curtain not only features fantastic choreography but 25 songs from Son Lux! This amazing New York trio’s soundtrack perfectly lined up with Travis’ story. The music combined with the choreography enhanced the audience’s experience and brought the show to a whole another level of excellence.
The little suggestion that I have for the Shaping Sound creative team is that I would invest in microphones. The show added dialogue, and I felt that there were some excellent, witty lines such as Leo’s diss to his brother: “Watch your back, bro!” that could have easily generated some laughs.
Final thoughts & grade: Despite the darker and mature themes that are sprinkled throughout the production, After the Curtain continues to build Shaping Sound’s legacy as one of the dance industry’s most innovative and premier groups. To Travis, Nick, Teddy, and the incomparable company of Shaping Sound: Bravo! I cannot wait to see what you come up with next. A