By Bev Wolfe
This was my first time attending a Collide Theatrical performance and it was definitely an experience. The performers do not speak onstage and, instead, seek to tell their story through dance and song. A detailed synopsis of the story is provided in the program, but it is largely unnecessary since the action conveys the story. Many of the song selections have words that also contribute to the story. Directors/Creators Josh Campbell and Regina Peluso have provided a charming musical and sentimental post-war drama.
Sebastian (Micael Hanna), a nightclub owner, dancer and choreographer prior to World War I, returns to his Paris nightclub, the Le Petit Moulin, when the war ends. A wartime injury prevents Sebastian from dancing and limits his ability to act as a choreographer. His friends Marco (Cameron Meilicke) and Claudine (Katie Gearty) persuade him to reopen the club and audition new dancers. Donna (Heather Cadigan Brockman), a war widow with a young child, and her younger sister Juliette (Andrea Mislan) audition. Donna is made the lead dancer and Juliette is hired as a waitress. Because Sebastian cannot demonstrate the necessary steps, he has difficulty teaching his dancers. Donna shows the dance troupe more modern dance steps making Sebastian so angry that he replaces her with Juliette. Unprepared and nervous, Juliette freezes on stage during opening night. To help her sister, Donna leaps onstage– Juliette retreats while Donna and other the dancers perform one of Donna’s dancing routines to thunderous audience applause. The last half of the show deals with Donna and Sebastian coming to an understanding and partnership. But more importantly, Juliette finds love as well as the confidence and the dancing skills to become the star of the show.
The evening flows smoothly and quickly as the dancers mix modern dance with traditional ballet. Mislan gives a touching performance as she transitions from the clumsy and confidence lacking Juliette to a polished dancer and leader. All of the dancers provide a rousing rock can-can as the finale.
Katie Gearty as the character Claudine, currently the lead singer with Hookers & Blow, has a terrific voice and belts out key tunes during the show including “Keep Marchin,’” “Hollaback Girl,”and “Girl on Fire.” Michael Hanna’s Sebastian provides a soaring version of “Blue Skies.” Doug Rohde’s musical direction of the band blends the music seamlessly in with the singers and the dancers. The only drawback is that the amplification of the music was too loud.
My only concern was the show’s repeated use of modern pop songs for this period show. The highlight of the show was Gearty singing the French classic “La Vie En Rose” as Juliette and Marco profess their love to each other in dance. Using French musical classics throughout the show would have been more consistent with the show’s time period and theme.
Even for those, like me, who are not a connoisseur of dance, La Petit is an entertaining and graceful evening of dance and song.