Chicago Theater Review: DANCING QUEEN (Riverfront Theater in Chicago)

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by Dan Zeff on June 15, 2012

in Theater-Chicago

ABBA-DABBA-DO

Delivered by an exuberant and attractive cast of young singers and dancers, Dancing Queen is an all-singing-all-dancing, high-energy nostalgia show that tries to churn its audience with happy memories of the songs of ABBA and other disco flag-wavers of the 1970’s. Even with no story and no dialogue, the hits, as they say, just keep coming, so this revue should erode the resistance of even the most resolute anti-disco snob. The extravaganza is playing at the Riverfront Theater, a massive tent complex that is attempting to establish itself as a major venue for variety entertainment in the city.

The show gets off to a slow start. The stream of ABBA numbers replicated the 1970’s recordings and the stiff dance routines don’t do much to illuminate the music (the choreography by Jillian Sellers did improve as the show progressed). By the time “Voulez-Vous” and “S.O.S.” had come and gone, I pondered whether I wouldn’t have been at least as well-off at home listening to a CD of the original music.

Dan Zeff’s Chicago review of Dancing Queen at Riverfront Theater

American Idol's David Hernandez

It’s not that the show’s singers are lacking. The nominal star of the show is David Hernandez, whose major claim to fame seems to be achieving the honor of being a finalist on American Idol. Hernandez may get the billing but this is an ensemble show showcasing performers with great bodies, boundless enthusiasm and stamina, and some solid voices in the front line talent. The foursome of Hernandez, Justin Jones, and especially Amanda Kerridge and Jillian Schochet,  do very well as cover vocalists for ABBA. Songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus wrote terrific material for the iconic group, but it was Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog who really sold the music with their expressive singing, and so it is with the two young ladies in Dancing Queen.

Dan Zeff’s Chicago review of Dancing Queen at Riverfront TheaterAbout two-thirds of the way through the first act, the program switched to a 1970’s medley and everything loosed up – the choreography, the dancing, and even the audience. A heady dose of “Staying Alive,” “We Are Family,” “Celebrate,” and “YMCA” finally got the audience animated. The momentum picked up even more in the second act, topped by a rousing extended version of “Shout” led by Kerridge, with her blast furnace voice.

At my performance, the performers tried mightily to involve the audience, descending into the crowd and pairing off with patrons for brief dancing bits. The spectators were willing and responsive but I suspect that a larger crowd would have been on their feet by the end of the evening. The “Waterloo” – “Dancing Queen” finale clearly was designed to galvanize the patrons and send them jiving into the aisles, but it never happened, in spite of lots of clapping and whooping from the more boisterous customers.

Dan Zeff’s Chicago review of Dancing Queen at Riverfront TheaterDancing Queen is not a revisionist show. The oldies from the 1970’s are mostly presented in their original arrangements, but familiarity should tap into affectionate memories of the music, which may be the chief point of the enterprise. Possibly the songs of ABBA don’t lend themselves to dance embellishment as easily as “Mustang Sally” and “Proud Mary” and “Dancing in the Street.” The dancers certainly kept their feet on the energy pedal the entire evening, and what choice do they have? There wasn’t one ballad to slow down the pace of the production.

Dan Zeff’s Chicago review of Dancing Queen at Riverfront Theater

Riverfront Theater in Chicago

The show’s production values – the basic set consists of a flight of steps – are what might be expected at a small Las Vegas hotel showroom. The visuals rely on colorful lighting effects and a countless number of flashy and sexy costumes. The back stage must have been a maelstrom of activity as the cast changed outfits by the minute.

So, there are no surprises in Dancing Queen, but plenty of entertainment value for attendees who can connect with the 1970’s or just appreciate melodic and swinging songs. Any revue with stomping presentations of “Shout” and “Does Your Mother Know” gets my vote. So does the Riverfront Theater, whose portable bathrooms outside the tent were the cleanest and most modern ever seen for this kind of event.

show photos courtesy of Spirit Productions

Dancing Queen
Riverfront Theater in Chicago
scheduled to end on June 24
for tickets, call 888 556 9484 or visit http://www.RiverfrontTheater.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

{ 2 comments }

B. Shea June 21, 2012 at 5:05 am

This is a great show – full of enthusiastic young talented dancers – and of course great ABBA music – the venue is also great – easy parking, close to tons of restaurants and bars – hopefully, chicago will support this sensational new venue (the beauty of the river as we walked out should also be mentioned).

MUSICAL MARY June 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

“There wasn’t one ballad to slow down the pace of the production.” NOT TRUE. They sang “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees.

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