IMPRESSIONS: Megan Williams Dance Projects' ONE WOMAN SHOW at Joe’s Pub at The Public
Presented by 2018 Dance-mopolitan Artist Series, produced by DANCE NOW
April 26, 2018
Dancers: Esmé Boyce, Robert Mark Burke, Derek Crescenti, Dylan Crossman, John Eirich, Kristen Foote, Chelsea Hecht, Courtney Lopes, and Megan Williams
Costume design: Barbara Erin Delo
Sound design: Sam Crawford
Who could resist Megan Williams’ ONE WOMAN SHOW? The project captures the escapist joy of musicals made in the 1930's-'50s, and its featured artist, with an attitude that veers between coy and innocent, exudes the grace and ease of that style. For those used to watching today’s popular female entertainers who directly face their audiences, often with hands raised in fists of triumph or protest, Williams' dance quality may seem elusive or oddly complacent.
The opening song, Kay Thompson's There's A Lull In My Life (1937), sets the pace — slow, with a steady bounce. While a voiceover drawls, “What’s happened to the Theatuh?,” Williams flops her open hand on her forehead, as though she has nothing more to worry about.
Caught in a cluster of spotlit faces, a lip-synching Williams plays a mischievous soloist accustomed to being ogled and adored. As a cast of dancers frames her every move, she steps insouciantly with them, on and over the men, casually tossing them aside or letting them swoop her over their heads. We all "get happy", uplifted by the cheerful score, which is filled with the songs of Judy Garland, Danny Kaye, Debbie Reynolds, and Josephine Baker.
Williams' four female dancers move beguilingly, making subtle weight shifts as they back up to a wall during I’ve Been Kissed Before sung by siren, Rita Hayworth. Kristen Foote is consistently intriguing whenever she appears. A duet featuring Foote and Dylan Crossman, set to Josephine Baker’s Rêves, sizzles. The couple generate heat as they move around each other closely, never quite touching.
Cast of ONE WOMAN SHOW; Photo by Yi-Chun Wu (L to R) Dylan Crossman, Kristen Foote, Chelsea Hecht, John Eirich, Megan Williams, Robert Mark Burke, Esmé Boyce, Derek Crescenti, Courtney Lopes
The audience smiles or laughs throughout, although the show takes a dip when Williams clowns through Why/Because (1936). Her caricature of the caricature of a child, created by Fanny Brice for this song, leaves us three times removed from any genuine feeling. The subsequent number for the men lacks specific emotion or strong movement. But the mood lifts with the finale — I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (1938) by jazz genius, Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra. The cast, dressed in silver, exuberantly circles the tiny stage of Joe’s Pub, as Williams slips off into the audience, looking back as though to murmur, “Goodbye to all of that.”
In her ONE WOMAN SHOW Williams stays on the breezy side, never enunciating a statement about this period of entertainment. She trusts her post-post modernist audience to draw their own conclusions.