‘Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks’ was written by American novelist, producer and actor, Richard Alfieri at the age of 50 yrs. His awards include two prestigious Writers Guild Awards and an Emmy nomination.
This hilarious and yet very touching play premiered on Broadway in 2001 and has since been translated into 14 languages and been seen in over 24 countries. 2006 in Australia, the male role was performed by Todd McKenney and it became the most successful play in the Ensemble Theatre’s 70 yrs. history.
Melville Theatre Company are presenting this delightful and heart-warming production at the Melville Theatre, on the corner of Stock Highway and Canning Highway in Melville.
The two-hour performances have curtain-up at 8.00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until Saturday 7th December. There are Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm.
The Scene: an upstairs flat of a condominium at St Petersburg Beach in Florida – with ocean views.
The Set: designed by Geoff and Lyn Leeder it looked stunning. It was built to a very high standard by Ross Bertinshaw, Jacob Jensen, Vanessa Jensen and Alastair Woodcock. The room had pale peppermint walls and white painted woodwork. The living room has a lounge area, with a bookcase, telephone table and ornament stand. The settee, piano stool and single armchair in a deeper mint colour. The dining area of the same room has a white melamine round table and matching chairs. There is a kitchen island and behind it a sink unit with work surface. Centrally, at the back was a French window leading onto a balcony with exotic plants and a white outdoor setting. This one of the best balconies that I have seen, most realistic.
The overall attention to detail has put the designer in WA’s top three. The props, personal furnishings, crockery and even a tiled splash back around the sink, are those tiny things that bring a room to life.
The lighting design was well conceived, with a wonderful sunset scene in the final minutes.
The music for each dance brought back memories. It would have been easy to go for the well-worn tunes, but this selection was fresh, with singers like Andy Williams bringing back memories.
Alexander Coutts-Smith designed both the lighting and sound. He had help on the lighting from Kate Lloyd of Enchant Entertainment; then helpful suggestions with the sound from the director, who also operated both systems.
The most capable stage manager was Karen Woodcock.
The doorbell rings and an old lady, Lily (Suzannah Churchman) with slight arthritic trouble, shuffles towards the front door. A handsome young man in his thirties stands there. He is Michael (Manuao TeAotonga), 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 is 65, she has become fed up with the older generation’s company.
After a tasteless comment from Michael, followed by a short argument, the instructor begs her not to report him to his employers as he has a poor wife 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 complains. Will the classes continue?
The final voiceover announcement was made by Ian Black.
In a production like this, the choreography was all-important. Well done Katie E Williams, whose talents are being widely noticed. Katie also produced the eye-catching poster, Vanessa the clear and concise programme.
There were costume changes for each actor between at least half a dozen of the scenes and yet there was no more than a few seconds for each. Amazingly the actors returned NOT breathless, clicking straight back into their character, a mild accent and perfect enunciation – true skill.
Most audiences would squirm at the thought of seeing a two-hander play. Watching the same two actors for two hours does not sound attractive. It would take a couple of multitalented actors to conquer such a challenge, an innovative director to keep the pace and plenty of visual interest.
When the award-winning director Geoff Leeder managed to sign up the two recent winners of the Finley Best Actor Award then there is hope for the production. A great set, top quality lighting and sound, free parking and a sensible ticket price then the interest increases. There followed two dazzling flawless performances, with a full gamut of emotions, fabulous chemistry and a wonderful script. Yes, this is a show that MUST NOT be missed.