2nd Opinion Review: “Shadows” at the Connelly Theater

shadows.jpg

Max Berry

When I saw that “Shadows” was described as a “dance musical” I was unsure what to expect. Were we going to get a show where all of the songs were sung from an offstage singer and the actors onstage simply danced? Were we going to get something that was mostly dance with a little bit of dialogue to carry us from scene to scene. But what we got was something very different and very engaging. Taking place entirely in her apartment, “Shadows” tells the story of Claire (Janine Divita) who starts an affair with her real estate broker, Alex (John Arthur Greene) and how they deal with the difficulties of keeping their two lives at bay and whether or not they even want to. In addition, we get a story told entirely through dance about a similar affair by Claire’s great-grandmother (Irina Dvorovenko). These stories intersected in a way that felt like a dance in itself and created an almost magical tone to the whole show.   

The relationship between Alex and Claire, while at first seeming a little rushed, was very well developed throughout. By the time they sing the What Have I Done/Freedom Duet, you feel their love for one another and their desperation to hold on to it, despite their fear about what’s next and it creates one of the many truly heartwarming and heartbreaking moments in the show. This is mostly due to the incredible performances by Divita and Greene. The two actors play off of each other brilliantly and by the end of the show, you forget that what they are doing is technically wrong because “Of course they are supposed to be together! Look at them!”. Though, both actors balance the struggle between this escape and their real life wonderfully and you really get the sense that they love that life too. This is refreshing in world where too many of these kinds of stories are set up so that we forget about the spouse by the end.

It is very rare to see a musical that has only two speaking/singing characters throughout. Though it feels absolutely necessary in “Shadows”. There is no need for a big chorus number or for a full cast of characters because this show isn’t about that. This show is about Alex and Claire. This show is about us watching them struggle through the ever-growing feelings they have for each other and the fear and complications that come with them. I can’t recall off the top of my head, another musical that has this kind of minimal set up and it was very enjoyable to see. Nothing muddling up the story. Just two people, trying to survive their own feelings. These are some of the most exciting shows to watch, in my opinion.

The only downside to this setup is that there were many songs where the characters were simply standing and singing without much else going on. This isn’t inherently a bad thing and all of the songs were beautifully written, a couple times I just found myself wanting a little variation of movement. This improved as the show continued when the songs moved from more of an internal monologue to feelings desperately being shouted to the world.  A few of the transitions from scene into song felt a little abrupt at the beginning as well. Though, this also improved as the show went on. Other than that, the songs were wonderfully written and packed quite the punch. Going from the energetic and hopeful “Dream Date” to the scared and regret-filled “Grand Design” broke my heart in the best way possible.

One of the things that made “Shadows” so unique were the dance interludes telling the parallel story of Claire’s great-grandmother and her lover. Feeling like their own little ballet, these moments not only provided something unique and beautiful to carry us from one scene to the next, but were an essential part of the story unfolding, and the mystery of just what their story actually was is compelling all the way through. The dancers moved with such emotion and purpose that you felt their presence moments after they left (Much like the ghosts they are portraying).

One other thing that seemed a little odd to me though, was a slightly abrupt ending. But even so, it led to a lovely last moment/image (which is all I can say without giving anything away) so it’s hard to be too upset about it. Though, I do feel that a smoother transition into this ending would have made it come together in a more organic way.

Overall, the more I think about this show, the more I seem to really fall in love with it. Being one of the few musicals that focuses on just two characters interacting in one space, featuring beautiful dance interludes that leave you breathless, and songs that I was humming on the way home, “Shadows” is definitely worth taking a trip to the theater to see, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

 

“Shadows” was created by Randall David Cook and Joey McKneely and features a book written by Randall David Cook and music and lyrics written by Edison Woods, Maxim Moston and Karen Bishko.

It was directed and choreographed by Joey McKneely.