Onstage: Review: Ballroom

Footlighters' new production is in step with its audience

Bea Asher has lost her husband, and she's just treading water, opening a junk shop to sell off the remnants of their long marriage. But a vibrant friend tells her that six months after her own husband's death, she realized that "they'd only buried one of us."

Bea is enticed to a ballroom where people congregate for companionship and a shared enthusiasm for dancing. And she begins to come back to life. That's the premise for Ballroom, the current production by Footlighters.

Directed by Dan Doerger, Ballroom is a lovely, if dated, show. It's based on a 1975 made-for-TV film, The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.

After director Michael Bennett struck gold with A Chorus Line, this was his next Broadway endeavor. But it ran for just three months (Chorus Line lasted for 15 years), largely because the story just doesn't have enough gas to keep it going.

Dee Anne Bryll is lovely as Bea, and she admirably handles the transition from a tentative widow to a self-confident woman unwilling to be tied down by convention. But her character is surrounded by less interesting people — a busybody sister-in-law, an angry daughter and a raft of dancers who change costumes frequently but are little more than caricatures.

Bea is charmed by Al (Matt Dentino), but he has more charm than character. He's not fully available, a fact Bea decides to ignore. Perhaps that's a sign of her growing sense of self-worth, but it failed to engage me.

Nevertheless, Ballroom is a fine community theater show: a big cast (Jon Vater and Cathy Lutts are the singers with the Stardust Ballroom's big band, nicely directed by Linda Abbott) and tons of well-executed ballroom dancing. The night I attended, the audience loved it.

I'd like a bit more drama, but Footlighters clearly knows what its audience likes. Grade: B




BALLROOM, presented by Footlighters at the Stained Glass Theater in Newport, continues through Oct. 21. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby restaurants and bars here.
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