2010-11-18 / Hap Erstein

Inventive songs, dance and performances are all virtues for “Vices”

in the know

Do not arrive late to the Caldwell Theatre during the next month or you may miss the quirky, steamy opening dance number of “Vices: A Love Story,” the small gem of a show that announced artistic director Clive Cholerton’s arrival in July 2009, and is now back in a tighter, more polished encore production.

This second-time-around satisfying reaction comes with no small measure of relief. Have you ever had the experience of liking a show, then returning to it later with trepidation, worried that your earlier opinion was misguided? Or that you have built up the show in your mind to the point that it cannot possibly live up to such a recollection?

In this case, such concerns are unfounded. Those who saw “Vices” in its world premiere engagement can call up their snowbird friends and take them to the Boca Raton playhouse with confidence. Those who missed seeing it before, but have a taste for unconventional musical theater, should not let this new opportunity pass them by.

Holly Shunkey and Albert Blaise Cattafi perform an expressive, gymnastic pas de deux in the unconventional musical at the Caldwell Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO Holly Shunkey and Albert Blaise Cattafi perform an expressive, gymnastic pas de deux in the unconventional musical at the Caldwell Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO Choreographer AC Cuilla (Tony nominee for 1999’s “Footloose”) sets the sensuous tone from the start, as lithe, athletic Holly Shunkey and Albert Blaise Cattafi physicalize the first frisky evening of a blossoming relationship. In an expressive, gymnastic pas de deux, these two unnamed characters meet and soon scramble in to bed together.

Before we can defog our glasses, we meet the couple’s alter egos, a quartet of singer-dancers — Lara Janine, Danielle Lee Greaves, Carlos L. Encinias and Will Lee- Williams — who verbalize the main pair’s thoughts as they get to know each other by confessing their obsessive habits.

The girl, you see, is orally fixated on cigarettes and chocolate, she is a shopaholic and she is preoccupied by the nips and tucks of plastic surgery. The guy concedes that he is hooked on working out at the gym, is a Type-A when it comes to his brokerage job and has an uncontrollable urge to play casino blackjack. And eventually, they each demonstrate an aversion to monogamy, straying once the first blush of attraction fades.

These vices are presented in songs penned by the committee of Ilene Reid, Michael Heitzman, Everett Bradley and Susan Draus, clever tunesmiths who spin out musical numbers in an eclectic series of styles, from rap to rock to faux-operetta.

While entertaining, these songs would only add up to a standard revue of contemporary life — like an “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” — if they were not connected by the inventive dance narrative by Cuilla. Cholerton is credited as the production’s director, but with such an emphasis on dance, Cuilla is probably the dominant creative force behind the show.

Similarly, the show’s performances belong to Shunkey and Cattafi, though the supporting four performers are all assets. Each gets a solo opportunity; most notably Lee-Williams with the percussive body slap rhythms of “Some Like It,” and Greaves with her booming belt on “All the Money.”

Eric Alsford and Caryl Ginsburg Fantel share the musical direction and keyboard duties for the compact but versatile band. Sean Lawson has improved on his amusing, mood-setting, stage-high projections and Alberto Arroyo’s camouflage costume remains the evening‘s best sight gag.

With no intermission and a running time of about 75 minutes, “Vices: A Love Story” sounds like less than a full evening’s entertainment, but it is so densely packed with inventive material and standout performances that it feels complete and completely satisfying. Opportunity is knocking a second time, yet this show seems destined to have a further life beyond South Florida. 
>>What: “Vices: A Love Story”
>>When: Through Dec. 12
>>Where: Caldwell Theatre Co.,
7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton
>>Tickets: $27-$50
>>Info: 241-7432 or 877-245-7432

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