Todd McKenney and Nancye Hayes in Six dance lessons in six weeks; Photo by Clare Hawley.
Two Australian theatrical greats come together in a splendid performance of this revival. Originally one of Ensemble Theatre’s most popular productions, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks combines a biting, witty, yet at times extremely moving script by award-winning playwright Richard Alfieri, excellent direction from seasoned Ensemble professional Sandra Bates, and fabulous dancing as provided by choreographer John O’Connell.
Ensemble won the 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Regional Touring Production after the show played at the Sydney Opera House in 2006 and then toured nationally, breaking their previous box office records. It is neatly structured, somewhat formulaic, but this is offset by unexpected twists. It is about relationships as well as various dancing styles.
Lily’s posh house as designed by Graham Maclean is an elegant Florida condo with stunning views which perhaps makes one think of a cabin on a luxury cruise ship. There were pinky/purple sunsets and other atmospheric lighting as provided by talented lighting designer Trudy Dalgeish. Maclean’s many and varied costumes were sensational too – some of the dresses for Lily were stunning.
Hayes is dazzling as Lily Harrison, a wealthy Florida retiree. At first a rather shy and brittle wife of a Baptist minister, Harrison hires the irreverent, loud dance instructor Michael Minetti (McKenney) to give her private dance lessons at home. After a particularly awkward and rocky start to their relationship, the next six weeks chop and change as they verbally spar and shock each other – revealing many secrets.
The bantering takes on an increasingly companionable and confident air with the inclusion of jokes about gender, sexuality, marriage ,religion and age and running gags as the two dismantle the protective shells they have built for themselves.
The snappy scintillating one-liners, which sometimes verged on the cruel, had the audience in stitches at times, the pace effortlessly flowed and was sustained terrifically and there was tremendous dancing. The two delightfully dance their way through the cha-cha, tango, waltz, and so on, and eventually reach a point of mutual understanding.
The dancing, as choreographed by John O’Connell, provides this crowd pleaser with delicious bubbling moments of joyous grace and delicacy, the fade-out of each ‘lesson‘ contributing glimmers of lost dreams, warm emotional attachment and agility.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks
Directed by Sandra Bates
Cast includes Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney
Choreographer John O’Connell
Designer Graham Maclean
Lighting Designer Trudy Dalgleish
Wardrobe Coordinator Margaret Gill
Stage Manager Danny Oliver
Assistant Stage Manager Lori Piquemal
Concourse Chatswood 25 February – 13 March 2016