The bottom line first: a surprisingly conventional drama cloaked in unconventional garb, this is a love story that’s both intensely familiar and, thanks to the use of dance segments which illustrate the action, unique and exciting. Combine this formula with highly disciplined and skillful acting of the first order and you have a show that tries hard to please – and does, in spades.
What’s it about? Simple really – and all highly accessible. Fresh-faced young Alan is new in town from Espanola, Ontario exploring the bar/club scene. One night at the bar he meets the attractive and experienced Bart who beds him and rejects him. Trouble is young Alan likes older Bart – a lot, and won’t give up that easily. Meanwhile Bart’s partner, scholarly Calder, falls in love with Alan, but his love is not returned. As they say, complications ensue.
This is a story of modern sexual manners – how men meet, mate (or not) and deal with the consequences. It’s zippy lines are clever and often funny, but also ring true with a keen sense of language and gritty realism that writer Sky Gilbert wields expertly.
The oddity here is the use of dance segments to illustrate the action, choreographed by Sky Gilbert and Keith Cole. Each scene here, which takes place in modern day Toronto, is followed by a stylized dance/movement piece with a highly different feel and look to the dramatic action preceding it. They are for the most part romantically orchestrated throwbacks to yesteryear, with the protagonists dancing out what the audience has just witnessed.
The production positively sizzles with stellar performances on the part of all three leads. Newcomer Nick Green (above) as young Alan is a revelation, clearly someone to watch in both senses, with his very finely nuanced performance full of depth and maturity. But impressive too, as one might expect, is seasoned favourite Ryan Kelly, of The Normal Heart and Living with Henry. We also liked David Benjamin-Tomlinson who rounded out the trio.
If one has issues with this show it is inevitably how the two main elements of this production – drama and dance – meld. At times, the transitions seem a bit ungainly, and the juxtaposition of such disparate elements may not work for everybody. Personally I liked the idea – I thought it added freshness and intrigue and charm.
All in all, though, this quirky production is a success. Buddies tends to be a reliable source of contemporary queer theatre, and this production, mounted by Sky Gilbert's own The Cabaret Company, is no exception. Go see it.
Dancing Queen is at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto until April 29.
Tickets via the Box Office at 416-975-8555 or T.O.Tix/Ticketweb