For a tale about the undead, Lisa Starry's A Vampire Tale certainly does make you feel alive.
From the first scene, filled with discordant pounding drums, Scorpius Dance Theater transports the audience to an almost-scary world of hissing, writhing, and cackling characters. The nearly two-hour show blends classical dance styles with impressive aerial arts and sultry pole dancing to tell the story of an innocent girl's descent into the dark world of vampires.
Before the performance begins, you'll meet Strange Man, played by either Eric Boudreau or Damon Dering (of Nearly Naked Theatre). As a sort of jester to the vampire court, either actor offers plenty of comic relief throughout the show. At times just the sound of Boudreau's footsteps are enough to make the audience chuckle, while Dering takes the role in a more creepy direction.
Then the first dance scene brings two corps of female and male dancers to the stage for high energy bursts of floor work-heavy choreography. From costuming to makeup and even in technique, neither group meshed exactly the way you might expect from a professional troupe. But in this case it works in their favor, adding to the realness of the show.
There will be bodies swinging from the ceiling and nearly into the audience's faces as well as a dancer swinging wide over the stage on a rope, making you appreciate the attention to detail required to ensure he doesn't go crashing into the wall.
This is the first season to showcase the talents of aerial pole artists Chase Jarvis and Lindsay Green, who present the first duet of the show. The scantily clad couple swirls around a pole like living art installations, alternating between mind-blowing feats of strength, and graceful, sliding, twisting maneuvers that just might leave you breathless and almost certainly in awe. By the time you meet the Vampire Queen you've already seen the First Encounter, a scene that highlights Alexis Stephens' (who plays Eve, the innocent) classical ballet-based technique as she, still hesitant and slightly afraid at this point, and the king perform a series of impressive lifts and jumps.
During these scenes, the strength required to perform the role of Viktor is far from negligible. Which makes it easy to see why David Starry, who's played the role since the show's inception, wasn't able to dance as the vampire king on Saturday night due to a shoulder injury. He's hopeful he'll be able to take the stage for his remaining shows. Either way you're in good hands with the talented and not at all hard on the eyes Billy-Joe Bouey.
By the time the audience has trickled back in after a short intermission, Eve has begun to transition into a far less innocent character. She dances with and sasses Strange Man before being seated to watch as the vampire clan takes the stage again. Here the show, often called "The Nutcracker of Halloween," reveals it's biggest parallel as Eve watches the aerial artists climb and tumble down red and black fabric. It harks, in a way, to Clara as she observes the candy dances of The Land of Sweets -- except that in this case there will be no happy ending in which the young girl wakes up from her pleasant dream. This is a nightmare that Eve will never leave.
"Time to Sleep," a sexy and somber modern piece full of violins and piano gives way to the entertaining coffin dance, a mostly-horizontal piece with expressive handwork, partnering and lifts.
The last four scenes slip by quickly, with much of the story telling happening here. There's The Arrangement, a piece set to Nine Inch Nails' "Something I Can Never Have," that was the most expressive performance from the vampire king all night. The heartbreaking lyrics underlined the tension between the three main characters, before the end of show ties up the story with a neat ending.
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In a sense it's almost anticlimactic, leaving you wondering about what happens next for the no-longer innocent Eve. But with Starry's film version of the show in the works, it may not be that long until we have answers. Nevertheless the show promises entertainment and it more than delivers on a genuinely scary and sexy show to please dance lovers and everymen alike.
Lisa Starry's A Vampire Tale runs through Saturday, October 19, at the Phoenix Theater Little Theater. Performances start at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets can be purchased on the Phoenix Theatre website.