Asolo Repertory Theatre has put its heart and soul into this new musical production. World premieres are intrinsically exciting, but Noah Racey’s “Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance” was pulse-racing delight. Anyone with a heartbeat at the opening night fell in love with the performers, and for lovers of tap, it was an 80-minute euphoric evening.
“Pulse” is a sophisticated synthesis of American dance through the decades. Writer, choreographer and performer Racey’s concept successfully combines the qualities of all the great musicals, from their Vaudeville circuit origins through stage, movies and up to the rhyming couplets of rap, to which Racey echoes the sound of footsteps, our primordial connection to the rhythm of life.
Director Jeff Calhoun has honed and tweaked the performances into pulsating perfection. Each individual song and dance is loaded with wit and self-awareness, each performer at his or hear peak of execution.
These talented artists give it everything they’ve got; they tap rhythm with all parts of their bodies, drumon the floor, sing from their hearts and utter quick apostrophes of sound from their guts. Beginning with Frances Bradley, a tall drink of wow, whose delicious singing is only surpassed by her divine hoofing, the cast is an amazing compilation of talent and personality. Christopher Erk’s dancing skills were also featured in “Tap Dogs”; Danny Gardner, dance captain, just finished touring with “Here to Stay”; versatile Anthony J. Russo toured with Cirque du Soleil’s “Banana Shpeel”; and Lauralyn McClelland’s hauntingly lovely voice has been heard in “Grease,” “Rock of Ages” and “West Side Story.”
Musical Director Aaron Gandy, with orchestrator Steve Orich and arranger Ross Patterson, delivers a rich tapestry of classic tunes in a thoughtful way you’ve never heard before, brought to life by musicians you want to hear again.
George M. Cohan’s “Nothing New Beneath the Sun” opens the show and introduces Tobin Obst’s aptly minimalistic, urban set and costume design. Racey orients the audience to his theme with a spoken-word musical speech, inviting all to “just breathe,” “rest from trying” and pay attention to the rhythm of life.