Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks

‘Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks’ was written at the age of 50 yrs. by American novelist, producer and actor, Richard Alfieri. His awards include two prestigious Writers Guild Awards and an Emmy nomination. This hilarious and yet very touching play premiered on Broadway in 2001. It has since been translated into 14 languages and seen in over 24 countries.

In 2006, the male role was performed in Australia by Todd McKenney, becoming the most successful play in the Ensemble Theatre’s 70 yrs. history.
Kalamunda Dramatic Society are presenting this delightful and heart-warming production at the KADS Town Square Theatre, 6 Central Mall in Kalamunda. The two-hour performances have curtain-up at 7.30 on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings until Saturday 7th August. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm.

The Scene:     It is 1995, on the 14th floor apartment of a luxury condominium block, with ocean views at St Petersburg Beach in Florida.

The Set:      Designed, constructed, and decorated to a very high standard by Peter Bloor, Martin Dorman and Karin Staflund.

The living room has pale, mint green walls and white woodwork. A door on the left goes to the bedroom and up two steps to the front door. The living room has two illuminated, wall recesses with shelves and cupboards: one on each side of the stage. A wall bracket with a plant in a pot is next hanging next to the front door. A grey moquette, three-seater settee, is centre stage with matching rug. Three white wooden chairs are against the side walls.

At the rear is a small kitchenette with smart units and a workbench; these are in white with French blue trims. The rear wall is very pale, azure blue with white tiling above the bench, and a single decorated tile centrally. There is a coffee maker on the bench.

The Props:           Lesley Broughton, Karen Woodcock and Karin Staflund have the apartment fully furnished with quality items. The set looks like an established home.
The tech crew included Mark Ramsey, Gabriel Ferrari and Jude Hickling. The lighting seemed to go on and off several times for no reason – a faulty switch or fader controlling several inappropriate, coloured lamps?

The most capable stage manager was Lesley Broughton, with backstage help from Sandra Sando and Anita Bound. It is rare to see the stage manager being appreciated by the audience at each scene change. Well done.

The programme’s photographs were taken by Dominic Ferrari and the programme itself assembled by Fi Livings, whose talents are being noticed in several task areas. The admirable programme is attractive and concise, with good information and photographs. With two blank A4 pages in the programme, perhaps some of the 6-point font on the first page could have been expanded to two pages, as it was a little difficult to read in the auditorium. The other pages were fine.

The doorbell rings and a smart but aging lady, Lily Harrison (Siobhán Vincent) answers the front door. A handsome young man in his thirties stands there. He is Michael Minetti (Nigel Goodwin), a dancing instructor from a local dancing academy. The lady explains to him that her husband is a Southern Baptist Minister and even though she admits to 65, she has become fed up with the older generation’s company.

Lily explains that she is looking forward to polite tuition, but after a tasteless comment from Michael and a short argument, the instructor begs her not to report him to his employers as he has a poor, sick wife who is highly dependent upon him. Lily relents, and the first dancing class begins.

It becomes obvious that a few white lies have been told. A neighbour constantly complains. Will the classes continue?

In a production like this, the choreography is all-important. Well done choreographer Michael Peretz, and the two actors who have conquered the wildly different genres. The six dance routines are described by the instructor and bought to life wonderfully. As Lily states she is a beginner, the dance ability should be very good but not too advanced. The couple must be seen to enjoy the whole process. Siobhán showed grace and a natural feel as Martin guided her skilfully through the lessons.

When admired director Karin Staflund signed up the two very experienced actors, Siobhán and Nigel, the audience were assured of a great night out.

This two-hander play is extremely demanding, it calls for two emotive performances that required the actors to be happy, argumentative, caring, broken-hearted and desperately lonely. The performances weren’t simply one emotion at a time, the actors, especially Siobhán had to blend in her feelings towards her husband with her lonely, and quite miserable life. Martin had to portray his friendless existence and his unstable financial position, whilst putting on a brave face. Two very deep and complex performances that had subtly. Too much emotion would have killed the play.

Wardrobe was a joint task for Karen Woodstock, Siobhán Vincent and Nigel Goodwin. There were major costume changes for each actor between the half a dozen scenes, and yet there was no more than a few seconds for each. Superb outfits.

Unfortunately, I did not see this play until the closing night. With comedies the chemistry builds as the season progresses, but with a demanding gamut of emotions the acting can often tail off towards the end of the season. With these two magnificent actors, the full depth of the chemistry and passion was still being delivered to the last seconds. Powerful, memorable performances.

An excellent production.