Wednesday, 17 May 2006

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, May 17, 2006

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks 
by Richard Alfieri by Ensemble Theatre
Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, May 17 to  June 10, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Richard Alfieri’s Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is an effective vehicle for two Australian musical theatre stars: Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney.

Not only does it allow them to dance in every scene but it endows them with feisty and funny dialogue and a deliciously dysfunctional relationship.

It is all a bit naughty too. Occasionally the two characters swear impulsively eliciting audible gasps and roars from the audience, they insult each other and cast aspersions on all and sundry. The conservative theatre-going audience feels it is witnessing something a little risqué with all the casual profanity, references to sex and homosexuality and jibes about religion.

The play is set in Lily Harrison’s (Hayes) very realistic retirement villa in Florida, the land of ageing gracelessly. Lily is 72, although she pretends to be 68. “If you say your age, your face hears,” she quips. She is the unwilling widow of a rigid Baptist minister who she still pretends is alive to protect her social image.

When Lily books six dance lessons, Michael Minetti (MCKenney) arrives with a portable CD player and a rude, crude manner, an explosive and often hilarious relationship is born. Michael is a middle-aged, gay dance instructor who abandoned his chorus boy lifestyle and unfortunate romantic past to nurse his dying mother.

The pair rubs each other the wrong way and develops a pattern of lying, arguing and forming a truce. They love the fighting and, eventually, each other. Secrets and vulnerabilities are revealed. T

Hayes plays Lily, the bored, proper retiree, with style and impeccable comic timing, relishing the slightly bawdy dialogue.

Mc Kenney revels in his devilish humour of Michael, “the passive-aggressive queen with a bad attitude”, and plays him with without overdoing the campness.

This is not music theatre but a play with seven scenes each built around a weekly dance lesson. Director, Sandra Bates, keeps the scenes moving swiftly and the dialogue crackling.

Although the constant bickering is tiring initially, there is sufficient warmth and humour to rise above the conflict.

The dancing is a highlight with choreography by John O’Connell. The pair does Swing, Tango, Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha Cha and Disco, However it is the ups and downs of the unlikely and poignant relationship of two social misfits that make the play unusual and provides the marvellous duo of Hayes and McKenney with a hot show.

By Kate Herbert

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