By Bradley Rapier, Danny Cistone and the Groovaloos, with additional material by Charlie Schmidt. Directed by Danny Cistone. Union Square Theater. (CLOSED)
Critics call Groovaloo a hip-hop A Chorus Line, as it takes a similar approach with dancers telling their stories (taken from the real-life stories of the company). Critics are entertained by the skilled dancers with the caveat that most of the stories are unoriginal. One story does stand out for them, that of Steven Stanton, who after being shot was told he'd never walk again, and uses his cane as a prop for his dances.
(Lisa Jo Sagolla) Regardless of your age or comfort level with new storytelling techniques and whitewashed hip-hop, you will assuredly relish the show's colorful, cartoonlike set by graffiti artist Toons One, the propulsive original music by a terrifically wide array of pop artists, and, most especially, the first-rate, frequently astonishing dancing. The young men deliver consistently superb solos of acrobatic floor work and imaginative freezes, the women are winningly fierce, and the ensemble choreography is excellent.
(Russell M. Kaplan) Actually, "impressive" is a pretty gross understatement for these guys: what they pull off with their bodies is at times unimaginable, as they seemingly defy gravity, space, or time like it was no big deal. Their solos and freestyle freakouts are so athletic and off-the-hook, that it's all the more astounding when they lock in with a group precision that implies a pack of funky robots tapped into the same mainframe. But robots they clearly are not. Humanity and truth are what elevate this show above an empty display of virtuosity, because these people really want us to understand why dance is such an important part of their lives. The themes of the dances tap into the members' insecurities as often as their joys: there's the ballerina who's too self-conscious to improvise, a few young dancers dealing with troubled family lives, and the near-fatal shooting of founding member Steven "Boogeyman" Stanton (who performs the bulk of the show with a cane).
Associated Press A
(Jennifer Farrar) All the dancers are excellent, irrepressibly bounding around the graffiti-painted, multilevel set with acrobatic zeal as they perform their own choreographed moves. Their varied styles include funk, head-spinning, lock-dancing (or popping) and many varieties of seemingly impossible somersaults and handstands. The infectious beat, supervised by Stanton and Rapier, is provided by original music from a number of artists, with additional sound design by Lucas Corrubia and Michael H.P. Viveros. Kinetic lighting design by Charlie Morrison blasts Laura Fine Hawkes' graffiti-painted set. Mora Stephens' colourful costumes give individuality to each dancer.
Talkin' Broadway A-
(Matthew Murray) Their stories all take on considerably more distinction once they actively kick up their heels - and most other imaginable body parts - to show that they practice what they preach. Numbers about the harrowing natures of auditions, living up to a father’s dreams (as represented in a challenge-tap mirror number), and making a warehouse lunch break far more musical than it has any right to be, are young, unpolished ideas. But they’re shiningly executed, and more than sufficient showcases for the undeniably talented cast to work out their coruscating kinetic vision of how to overcome life’s little obstacles. So dynamic are they, you wish the stereotypically graffiti-strewn set (Laura Fine Hawkes was the design consultant, Toons One the painter) and headache-inducing lighting (Charlie Morrison) represented as original a vision.
(Sam Thielman) The insta-inspirational plots frequently result in some stellar routines -- a couple of dancers (Jon Cruz and Oscar Orosco) start their duet with a been-done premise (a guy dancing with his reflection) but turn it into a great, multilevel competition that might be the show's highlight. It's tempting to say "Groovaloo" would be better if the performers just threw out the plot altogether and did routine after routine. But its lead creators (Bradley Rapier and director Danny Cistone) clearly believe the show's reason for being is to inspire people. The dancers are pretty impressive all by themselves -- who knew it was possible to spin on your head for that long and live to tell the tale? -- so one wonders what else Rapier and Cistone needed to prove.
(Barbara & Scott Siegel) Conceived and created by Bradley Rapier and Danny Cistone, the show presents itself as a contemporary version of A Chorus Line with the performers dancing and telling their own stories, but the script falls somewhere between banal and pretentious. As much as it would like to inspire, it too often comes off as empty rhetoric and ignores an essential rule of writing: don't tell us, show us. (Most of the personal stories are recorded and told as voice-overs while the dancing happens onstage.)
Backstage A 13; Nytheatre.com A 13; AP A 13; Talkin' Broadway A- 12; Variety B+ 11; TheaterMania C+ 8; TOTAL: 70/6 = 11.67 (A-)