Friday, January 8, 2016

Razzle Dazzle 'Em - The Phipps Dance Theater

The Phipps Center for the Arts is expanding its horizons. Crossing the river from Hudson, Wisconsin, the Phipps Dance Theater has brought its latest show to the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.

Razzle Dazzle 'Em: A Tribute to Bob Fosse is a celebration of the director/choreographer's work, performed with panache by thirteen talented performers. Director Mackenzie Lewis, with choreographers Melissa Huber and Christina Leines, re-creates Fosse's dances in iconic numbers from shows including Chicago, Sweet Charity, Pippin, and The Pajama Game, as well as his autobiographical film All That Jazz.

The Southern provides the perfect setting for these dances, with no frills to distract from the precision of the dancing. Fosse's dance style is all about the details, and the dancers do not disappoint. The music is recorded, but much of the singing is live, including solos that break up the dance numbers.

"Cell Block Tango" 
A highlight for me was the "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago, which was sung, acted, and danced to perfection. Though the songs and dances are familiar, it's exciting to see them performed live and close up. Cabaret's "Mein Herr" and The Pajama Game's "Steam Heat" were also wonderful to see, as were all the dances. A few interstitial scenes devised to give the dancers time to change are not quite as successful, but then we are right back into the dance.

The one number I was really looking forward to most was a terrific finale. "The Rich Man's Frug" from Sweet Charity is a wonderfully iconic dance, and the performance of it was everything I hoped for. It's full of the signature Fosse moves from the exaggerated full-body leaning of the dancers to the precise wrist-twisting finger snaps.

There are four more chances to see Razzle Dazzle 'Em through January 10. It is indeed a dazzling night of dance, and I hope it brings more attention to the Phipps, which offers classes, theater, dance, music, visual arts, and more. It's just a short trip from the Twin Cities to experience all kinds of art in their beautiful facility in picturesque downtown Hudson.