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Fancy Footwork in Playhouse’s ‘Dance Lessons’

By Haylee Barber | NB Indy

Two hours with just two actors could in other instances be monotonous, but legendary actress and dancer Leslie Caron and her exuberant co-star, David Engel, do not disappoint in Laguna Playhouse’s much-anticipated “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.“

Leslie Caron and David Engel in Laguna Playhouse’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” through June 8. Tickets: 949 497-2787, ext. 1.

Leslie Caron and David Engel in Laguna Playhouse’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” through June 8. Tickets: 949 497-2787, ext. 1.

“The chemistry between the two of them is unbelievable,” Jeff Brandt, a soon to be member of the theater’s board, said during intermission on opening night. “This is one of the best shows I’ve seen all season.”

Preceding the opening show, guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres on the theater’s patio and buzzed about Caron, known for her roles in the 1950s films “An American in Paris” and “Gigi.” When the curtain opened on the nearly full house, Caron, 83, took the stage with a boisterous attitude and a round of applause to match.

“Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” follows the story of Lily Harrison, an elderly woman living in a retirement home who accepts the “invisibility of age.” Lily hires a larger-than-life dance instructor for a few at-home lessons, and the two become unlikely yet beautiful companions.

The content is both layered and complex as the two friends begin to explore and question life, love, and age. The humor was delicately crass and allowed for an evening that produced tears and laughter from the adoring audience.

Caron’s dancing maintained impeccable timing and allowed for graceful transitions—not surprising for someone who has danced with such greats as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Mikhail Baryshnikov, to name a few.

“Just the concept of dancing with Leslie, I often have to slap myself when I’m out there with her,” said Engel after the show. “Leslie is a love, she is wonderful to work with.”

The costuming was bright and believable, and the choreography was created by another living legend, Donna McKechnie, best known for her starring role in the musical “A Chorus Line.”

McKenchnie, too, spoke warmly of working with Caron and noted that many of the play’s dance styles included in the “six lessons” were new to Caron. The process, she said, was integrated and creative, and made easy by Caron’s impeccable acting ability.

Following the performance, guests enjoyed champagne and dessert. Caron and Engel made an appearance and were dearly welcomed by guests.

Caron embraced the audience warmly, posing for photographs with fans and “chatting with old friends.”

As Caron says in the play’s opening scene, “I’m just dancing!”

That she is.

 

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