‘Contact’, devised, choreographed and directed by the talented Susan Stroman, is a wonderful collection of dance routines, which are set around simple but enticing stories. It won the Tony award for best musical in 2000 and though it was a popular choice, the decision was not without some controversy, and rightly so. The show contains no original music and there is not one song to be heard, so does it deserve its description as a musical? No! However, this is not to detract from the show's sheer entertainment.
The company of talented dancers are a delight to watch and their verve, allurement and sinuous movements are captivating. Whether they are misbehaving on a swing, fantasising in a restaurant or dancing cheek to cheek in a jazz club, you are held spellbound by their wonderful talent.
The three acts are each based around stories to do with attempts at human contact and the passion that arises from such. They each have a simple but delightful twist, and as in life, the ending is not always a happy one. The dialogue, if one can call it such, is banal and forced, but then this is to be expected as the story is told by dance, and too much dialogue would only distract.
In the first act 'Swinging' one is introduced to an aristocrat, his mistress and their servant. This is the simplest story of the three and is based around a famous 18th century picture named the 'Swing' by artist Jean Honore Fragonard. A reproduction of the picture is to be found in the programme. I suggest you view the picture and try to imagine what the characters portrayed in it are thinking. This will help you to appreciate this wonderful dance routine and the enchanting set design by Thomas Lynch.
The second act 'Did you move?' tells of the fantasies of a wife as she imagines life without her misogynistic and possessive husband. This was my favourite story and the beautiful Sarah Wilder, the principle dancer for the Royal Ballet Company, is delightful. She is wonderfully entertaining as an actor as well as a dancer; her face is able to express a whole mixture of emotions.
The final act 'Contact' for me has the weakest story, but the dancing is phenomenal. Michael Praed, who neither dancers or acts particularly well, plays a suicidal executive who accidentally stumbles one night into a jazz dance club, where he becomes enthralled by an enigmatic girl in a yellow dress. The girl oozes devouring sexual charm as she first entices and then rejects the advances of the male dancers. Leigh Zimmerman is excellent as the golden goddess who taunts the men at the club with her sexual allure. This is some of the best choreography I have seen on a west end stage; the whole company just pulsates with raw energy and talent.
Susan Stroman has created a reputation for herself as one of the most initiative and creative choreographers working in theatre. She has won countless awards for her choreography, including Tony, Laurence Olivier, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and no doubt many others. ‘Contact’ can only add to her stature.
This is the second time I have seen 'Contact'; I originally saw it at the Lincoln Theatre in NY. At that time I remember feeling vaguely disappointed. All I knew of the production was that it had won best musical in the 2000 Tony Awards, and so I suppose I was expecting something more conventional and so felt disappointed. However, my view of the show has totally changed. I found this West End production delightful from beginning to end.
What other critics had to say.....
JOHN PERCIVAL for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Whatever Contact is, it's an entertaining show." JUDITH MACKRELL for THE GUARDIAN says, " "For a show that is all about the pains and pleasures of human communication, Contact fails disappointingly to get under its characters' skins." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "This is a show of wonderful originality, equally rich in choreographic invention and warm humanity." DEBRA CRAINE for THE TIMES says, "A frothy, lightweight triptych of tales told with Broadway brio but hardly burning with creative ambition." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Swinging sensation." JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "It is a tough, magical, elegant show, funny and intelligent, ironical, generous and irresistibly playful." LISA MARTLAND for THE STAGE says, "Thrilling stuff."
External links to full reviews from newspapers