Review: Hotel Follies at Arts Theatre

Performance: 26 - 30 Aug 09
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Friday 28 August 2009

'Hotel Follies' 26-30 August, Arts Theatre, Photo: Jonathan Eeles

*Hotel Follies* is a glass of champagne quenching the thirst of our favourite national pastime, people watching. The scene set from the pavement with a ‘Vacancy’ sign hung in the door way and a bar tender who’s moves are more than adequate for the stage, the buzz of a hotel lobby is created.

As a spectator to this eclectic mix of genres, characters and themes, the line up for the evening was a big draw, but the ‘good on paper’ scenario hindered *Hotel Follies*. Christopher Marney, New Adventures dancer turned choreographer and director, brought a catalogue of fantastic performers to the stage. Doreen Wells, the sixties Royal Ballet star, brought the Hollywood glamour needed in every ’40’s style dance revue. Sex appeal was supplied by Jason Piper, who is making his name in the commercial world after stints working with Kylie, Shirley Bassey and Miss Dynamite, plus immortalisation in _*Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix* _as Bane (mythical creature half horse half human). Sarah Storer, the dancer to use when portraying strong witty female characters all wrapped up in a neat blond bomb shell package was aptly programmed as the man eater. These dancers, naming only a few, were joined by actor Alan Mosley, trapeze artist Genevieve Monastesse and singer Daniella Bowen – all in all making _*Hotel Follies* _a busy, eclectic vaudeville performance.

Marney didn’t stop at famous faces. Well known choreography found its place in the hotel too. Matthew Bourne’s *Dearest Love* _duet, Balanchine’s _Serenade (hammed up by ‘Trocks’ dancer Roberto Forleo and retitled Serenadina), Moira Shearers’ famous solo from *The Red Shoes* _and an updated excerpt from _*La Bayadère*.

The onstage action was as busy as the line up. Act 1 felt lengthy with the storyline of the bride and groom not holding the narrative. Individually the offerings in each section were entertaining, but lacked substance. Bourne’s duet looked cramped on the small stage of the Arts Theatre and the choreography a little passé. Stereotypically Bourne, the male duet featured leans, supports and lingering glances coupled with intimate lifts. The audition scene featuring Daniella Bowen and Alan Mosley was beautifully lit, although the choice of song was a little off the mark. After the first two numbers the plot melted into a montage of ballet, poetry, radio excerpts and suitcases.

Act 2 had a fresh feel, helped by programming which was more concise. Doreen Wells was endearing, an advocate of how ballet can keep you fit, looking a million dollars and teaching the importance of a gracious entrance. Her three beaus, Hendrick January, Maurizio Montis and Fran Mangiacasale, allowed this precious gem to sparkle. The trapeze act seemed an odd moment sandwiched into the running order, but the ending number, Marney’s *Battered Brides* _was definitely the main event. Hopefully this witty take on _La Bayadère will be performed minus the rest of the hotel entertainment as the staging, movement, characterisation and dancers were everything British contemporary dance theatre should be.

Business is definitely booming at this hotel.

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