Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? A question I and many other dance enthusiasts have been plagued with all our lives! Although they state you do not have to choose, Breakaway Entertainment makes a strong case for Kelly. Anatomy of A Dancer: The Life Of A Song & Dance Man presented in Toronto at the Next Stage Theatre Festival pays homage to Kelly, one of America’s most influential performers. Chronicling his life from Pittsburgh to Hollywood, his romances, famous performances and many of his contributions to the theatre world.
What could be more fun than barrel jumps, fan kicks and tap dancing?! The show is choreographed by Adam Martino*, and is full of incredible choreography that brings the audience right into the golden age of Hollywood. The entire cast is jam-packed with incredible technicians, successful taking on the ambitious 1930s-1960s era of musical comedies. It’s hard not to smile at their take on famous scenes in Singing In the Rain, An American in Paris and On The Town.
Between the full-out dance numbers are mini acts that tell the story of Kelly’s life, mainly played by Robbie Fenton, one of two main vocalists for the show. While primarily about the life of Kelly, there are also small glimpses into the life of Judy Garland. My favourite scene of the show is Garland’s character explaining the differences between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire – stating that most think of them as rivals, but really there is no need to choose. Jokingly, she says that if you really had to, ‘to give Astaire your heart, and Kelly your body.’
Although the choreography and dancers were beautiful, there were quite a few technical mishaps. Dancers and microphones generally do not mix, especially with this high level of physicality. Multiple times microphones would swing off dancers bodies, or be loosened by their sweat. I would have enjoyed the performance more if the main two vocalists were the only ones given microphones. The show’s lighting design also fell short – at times not all dancers were fully lit with many fast and drastic unneeded lighting changes that disrupt the storyline.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It brings a fresh energy that is welcome during such cold weather. The show is family friendly, and I would recommend it for dance, musical or Hollywood fans of all ages – it will have you humming one of many familiar tunes as you leave the theatre. I would love to see the company in the future paying homage to other amazing talents from the same era.
*Although not listed in the program, the show’s website also lists Leah Cameron as a choreographer.
- Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage/Studio/Site-specific shows are $15 and Ante-chamber performances are $12
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo by Chris Hutcheson of Micah Enzlin, Alayna Kellett, Matt Eldracher, Madison Hayes-Crook, Robbie Fenton in Anatomy of a Dancer.