Creating a new piece of theatre is hard enough, but creating a whole new theatrical genre is a feat most people would run away from screaming.
Manzo entertainement’s Frank Manzo then obviously wasn’t most people when, along with a friend, he came up with the idea of the “dansical”. He’s testing out his theory doing quadruple duty (Producer, Director, Choreographer & Dancer) in With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical playing at the Factory Theatre as part of the 2012 Toronto Fringe.
According to Manzo, the idea behind the dansical was to create a show with no dialogue and no singing. Instead, a cast of dancers would take you on a journey using movement, video and other staging. This enables them to play fully fleshed out (albeit mute) characters; a possibility seldom afforded to dancers who, in my opinion, are far too often relegated to stage decoration.
In this case the dancers have the stage entirely to themselves; and they own it. In 60 minutes we learn about the intertwining stories of Manny, and couple Lynne and Dina, although you’ll need a program to know their names because remember: dansicals have no dialogue.
As we follow Manny’s search for love, Lynn and Dina help him along while dealing with their own hardships as best they can. Through the story we get to witness a variety of Manny’s encounters in his elusive search, side by side with the different tactics used by Lynn and Dina in order to make it through.
The show is predominantly split into two forms,with the narrative moved along by a series of videos projected onto a wide screen upstage. While the cinematography at work was excellent, these too did not have any dialogue, and after a while their silent movie quality no longer worked for me.
The show’s dance pieces are meant to highlight particular emotions, situations or moments the characters are going through. In this case, the standout for me was early on in the play when Manny tries his luck at a local club. The ensuing cat and mouse dance battle was a whole lot of sass, energy, gyrating and whacking rolled into one.
Unfortunately, while the piece did grab me when it started, the longer it went the more I felt myself slipping away. The lack of dialogue soon began to feel like an imposition rather than an artistic choice, and the chemistry I felt between the performers in some of the earlier numbers seemed to dissipate the further into the play we got.
That being said, I can’t help but feel I’m being a little harsh, because the dancing and choreography I was witness to would have been impressive on any stage and, while this may make me sound jaded, I was a little shocked to find such superior quality being offered as part of a fringe festival.
If you end up missing it in this run, there’s no need to worry as Manzo Entertainment will be remounting a longer, fuller version of this show at The Tarragon Theatre in August. Perhaps the added time and material will help with the areas I found had some trouble, but alas I won’t be in town to see it. If you do and think it did, please let me know by commenting below. Or if you don’t, comment anyways – we always love to hear what you think.
- With Somebody Who Loves Me: A Gay Dansical plays at Venue 12 – Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)
- Showtimes are: July 06, Friday, 1:15 PM; July 07, Saturday, 7:30 PM; July 09, Monday, 8:30 PM; July 10, Tuesday, 1:15 PM; July 11, Wednesday, 9:15 PM; July 13, Friday, 5:45 PM; July 14, Saturday, 11:30 PM.
- All individual Fringe tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Tickets are also available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows