When offered the chance to see Collide Theatrical‘s latest production, Le Petit Moulin, I didn’t even check my calendar before saying yes (side note: always check your calendar first; I had to reschedule a family dinner. Worth it.). I love all things French and particularly early 20th century history, but more to the point, Collide has always impressed me with their high-energy and entertaining original shows.
I generally tell people I’m not a “dance person”, but I love their all-dance, no-dialogue shows; in addition to being well done, they are really accessible to anyone. The plot is easy to follow, even if you don’t read the convenient summary in the program (but you should).
Le Petit Moulin is set in post-WWI Paris and takes place in the titular club, where female dancers struggle to perfect their choreography and the club owner, embittered by his war injuries, tries to make a living while resisting any change to his idea of how the club should be run. It’s not a complicated plot, but it’s compelling and interesting to watch.
The live, on-stage band adds an intense energy to the show — as if women in frilly skirts and corsets leaping and twirling didn’t provide enough energy — and the vocals, particularly those by Katie Gearty offer jazzy renditions of songs like “Hollaback Girl” and “Let’s Get This Party Started”. The cast is engaging, and there isn’t a one who isn’t interesting to watch. It was fascinating to watch Heather Cadigan Brockman transform from a withdrawn, hopeless widow to an ambitious can-can dancer, and Andrea Mislan as her younger sister, frustrated at her own inability to learn choreography (and I had to pause to marvel at what a challenge it must be for a talented dancer to deliberately mess up). And frankly, it would be worth it to go just to see Michael Hanna‘s powerful rendition of “Blue Skies”.
At just over 90 minutes, including an intermission, the show flies by in a satisfying whirl of pretty costumes and fast-paced dance moves. Collide‘s originality lies not in the plot, but in the unique combination of dance and live music used to tell a cute story. All in all, Le Petit Moulin was exactly what I wanted on a Saturday night: a fun, colourful show, talented performers, and something original (and local!).
Le Petit Moulin, choreographed by Regina Peluso and directed by josh Campbell, plays April 20-May 7, 2017 at The Ritz Theatre, 345 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets are $25-50, with educational and group ticket discounts available; see www.collidetheatrical.org