Hot Feet Gets Cold Shoulder
...you mean to tell me, thatâ€™s the best choreography he could come up with? To have derived from such a renowned trio as Hines, Hines & Dad, which included the legendary Gregory Hines, it is my sincere hope that Mr. Maurice Hines is just being plain lazy right now. I mean, he had those poor dancers doing the Rerun, the Bogle, some jumping up and down antics reminiscent of a Richard Simmons video
What! Was there some subliminal message we were supposed to pick up on about recycling in this cheesy, unimaginative take off of Hans Christian Andersenâ€™s, The Red Shoes? And the dancing â€“ what was that? With the highly skilled entourage of professional dancers Maurice Hines was blessed to have in his charge, you mean to tell me, thatâ€™s the best choreography he could come up with? To have derived from such a renowned trio as Hines, Hines & Dad, which included the legendary Gregory Hines, it is my sincere hope that Mr. Maurice Hines is just being plain lazy right now.
I mean, he had those poor dancers doing the Rerun, the Bogle, some jumping up and down antics reminiscent of a Richard Simmons video, the Soul Train Hump -- thatâ€™s what I call it â€“ you know -- when you put your fists up to your chest and your elbows out and hump like a crazy dog? (Don't get me wrong -- I am aware that what I describe is similar to a popular movement in some ethnic dances. However, in the context of this misguided play, it was the "Soul Train Hump"! Flat out!) And where did they get those condescending leaps and pirouettes â€“ Ballet for Dummies? One of the leading characters even referred to them as â€œvideo hoâ€™sâ€? after one dance number. It was actually written into the script! Way to turn it around in an effort to join in the laughter rather than be laughed at. Mannn, I tell ya â€“ money can buy anything these days -- even an undeserved spot on Broadway. Hot Feet was a slap in the face to all the incredibly talented playwrights and choreographers who give their blood sweat and tears every moment they breathe for a shot on Broadway.
Freddie Gershon of Musical Theatre International put on a Broadway show earlier that morning (June 13th) called the Broadway Jr. Project, featuring New York City Public School Students from schools throughout the city. I had the good fortune to go see that brilliant production before seeing Hot Feet. The Broadway Jr. Project was spectacular. Those kids were an absolute delight. Teachers, principals, parents and sponsors beamed with tremendous pride and joy, and rightfully so. You could tell the kids were having the time of their lives and there was an amazing collection of really good talent in the production. I enjoyed that experience much more than Hot Feet, which was reminiscent of a well-rehearsed high school play, at best.
I donâ€™t know what the costumes and scenery were about. One minute we were in some barrio in West Hell with some weirdo demons or something, the next minute we were in outer space with a bunch of space cadets parading around in silver suits. I mean this show was a complete menagerie. There was grumbling throughout the entire theatre when, at the climax, the Don of the â€œdance companyâ€? removed his jacket as if he were about to break into the dance number of his life, then, to everyone's disappointment, he sat down and began to sing this snore fest of a duet with the mother.
Even the Earth, Wind and Fire music was fake! A lot of it was not the expected original track. That was weird. But not to worry â€“ donâ€™t get â€œcold feetâ€? (forgive me, I couldnâ€™t resist) -- it wasnâ€™t all bad.
Thank God for the amazing cast, which in spite of the terrible choreography, made Hot Feet still an enchanting event. Vivian Nixon was adorable as the exuberant, love-struck teenage girl, Kalimba, who aspired to be prima of an eminent dance troupe. Ms. Nixonâ€™s hypnotic, invigorating style wowed her audience as she made magic happen for all of us. The agile Ms. Nixon had me often wondering if that chile has any bones. The star-studded cast, including Mel Johnson, Jr. (Mel Johnson, Jr. is taking over the role of Victor while Keith David is taking a six week leave of absence to star in a new feature film.) -- we all know Mel Johnson, Jr. from Total Recall. He played Benny. Mel Johnson, Jr. has also mastered the stage as Mufasa in The Lion King, Jellyâ€™s Last Jam with Maurice Hines, Shakespeare in the Parkâ€™s Two Gentlemen of Verona, heâ€™s done Fosseâ€™s Big Deal and Hamlet, just to name a small fraction of this brilliant actorâ€™s resume. Oh look! He's on TV right now in a Good Times rerun. Ann Duquesnay, as the mother was well done. Ms. Duquesnay has a rich and effervescent quality in her voice. She sings beautifully. Wynonna Smith did a wonderful job as Naomi. The enchanting Michael Balderrama made the women in the audience want to be Kalimba. Mr. Balderramaâ€™s versatility as a performer is admirable and appreciated. Samantha Pollino and Sarah Livingston are fresh and talented young performers who I expect to see a lot more of. Allen Hidalgo as Louie! All I can say is, â€œAye, Papi â€“ I would go to the ends of the earth to watch you be devilish!â€? People, you had to be there. You have got to see what this man does to his audience. Let me try to describe it: Allen Hidalgo reaches out, grabs you by the soul and doesnâ€™t let you go until he is done having his way with you! You'll definitely be tickled. Bravo!
See? This mild chastisement is not for meanness, but for the sake of art. Everything is being diluted into bells & whistles, sampling and recycling, these days. Where is the creativity? Have we become so fast-paced that we have lost our imagination? Some artists start developing their craft practically from the time they are born. They live it. They breathe it. They starve and live a life of loneliness in the name of art -- all for that one big break. What is it all for, if all you really need is money or a famous name to make it to Broadway? Moreover, what are we, the audience -- appreciators of the arts, to do, as lackadaisical becomes par for the course on Broadway?
C'mon, people! Step it up! (Uh-oh, I did it again, didn't I?)
Hot Feet is playing at The Hilton Theatre located at 213 West 42nd Street & Broadway in Manhattan. You can get tickets by visiting http://www.hotfeetthemusical.com
Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Advocate for Solutions and Results Â©2006 is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News and CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates, a public relations company in New York City. If you have a solution, contact Brenda@blackstarnews.com . Maybe weâ€™ll talk.
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