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Flying Foot Forum celebrates an American’s View of Paris

PARK SQUARE PRESENTS FRENCH TWIST
Flying Foot Forum’s 25th Anniversary production celebrates
an American’s view of Paris from the Can-Can to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage is once again the home to Flying Foot Forum’s signature storytelling with FRENCH TWIST, a cabaret of gorgeous music, theatrical storytelling and percussive dance set in a Paris Nightclub that runs from June 22 to July 15, 2018. This 25th anniversary production starts with the premise of the company’s original production which premiered at The Guthrie in 2008, but now includes new characters, melodic new songs and inventive dances. Director/choreographer Joe Chvala fuses vaudeville, tap, cabaret, follies, opera, and percussive art forms to evoke American’s wildest imaginings of life in the City of Light.

The piece opens with “All Creatures Are Now Merry-Minded,” a riotous medley of caricatures of familiar characters from a myriad of operas. With boundless energy, the company dances its way through an amazing variety of classical music, including a Bach fugue danced on and off chairs. Act II introduces a medium who conjures up the spirits of bygone Paris, from the jazz artists of the 1920’s American expat scene to Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. “It’s eclectic, fun, wild, and of course there’s the Can-Can,” says founding Artistic Director Joe Chvala. “Some of us oldsters in the company have been doing the Can-Can for decades, so we have to remember to give the young dancers the truly gymnastic moves and try not to kill ourselves,” he laughs.

One of the new numbers depicts Loie Fuller, considered by many to be the godmother of modern dance, even before Isadora Duncan. Loie was an American actress who became a sensation at the Exposition Universelle with her Serpentine Dance, using long flowing fabric and colored stage lights. In Joe Chvala’s talented hands, her swathes of fabric suddenly turn into the sky above the city and the setting for a great tap number in the spirit of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron from the 1950s movie AMERICAN IN PARIS. There will even be a little Flamenco woven into the evening courtesy of Molly Kay Stoltz of Zorongo Flamenco.

“This show is perfect for the Boss Stage,” says Chvala. “It transforms beautifully into an intimate nightclub setting, as we learned with PASSING THROUGH PIG’S EYE last summer. More than that, the lobby, its proximity to the Dakota’s Vieux-Carrė jazz club and the whole ambiance of the Historic Hamm Building put you in the right mood for the atmosphere we’re creating.”

The fact that Flying Foot Forum is celebrating 25 years comes almost as a surprise to its founder. “What became a company started first as a big performance, and then we just kept going,” Chvala says. “Once we established ourselves as a company, I remember going to the 20th anniversary concert of an African Dance company and thinking ‘I wonder if we’ll ever make it 20 years.’ It’s truly wonderful that three of our original dancers and musical collaborators like rhythm-wizard Peter O’Gorman are still creating with us. Each generation of new dancers, like the amazing Brandon Jackson who plays La Bijoux in French Twist – keep adding to our aesthetic as they bring their unique energies to the process.”

Flying Foot Forum’s unique style of percussive dance continues to ripple out through choreographers and companies in Minnesota and beyond. “Over the years, we’ve worked with so many great dancers and choreographers like Brian Sostek and Tamara Kangas Erickson,” confirms Chvala. “Sometimes I see a show and think ‘I wonder if that idea was inspired by something we did?’ After 25 years, we are still finding new ways to explore our art form. It’s been a tremendous gift to have this crazy idea take off.”

***

Celebrate 25 years of Flying Foot Forum with their new production of FRENCH TWIST, featuring the fabulously furious feet of founding members Jan Campbell, Joe Chvala, Karla Grotting and veterans Jeremy Bensussan, Peter O’Gorman and Charles Robison are joined by Brandon Jackson, Falicia Cunningham, Molly Kay Stoltz, Kaleena Miller and Michael Hasenmueller.

The creative team for the production includes Cynthia Forsgren (Costume Designer), Robin McIntyre (Scenic Designer) and Eric Jensen (Music Director)

Flying Foot Forum’s FRENCH TWIST Performance Schedule: Previews begin Friday, June 22, and continue through Thursday, June 28. June 29 is Opening Night, and the run continues through July 15. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. except for Saturday and Sunday matinees, which begin at 2 p.m. All performances are on Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage in Saint Paul’s historic Hamm Building, 408 St. Peter Street.

There will also be two nights of works in progress created by Joe Chvala and company members including a work in progress premiere of a Flying Foot Forum film project Mondays, July 2 and 9.

Presenting Victoria Price

Making her debut at Park Square Theatre in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance is Victoria Price. As part of the nine-member ensemble, she plays multiple roles–one moment a pirate; another, a daughter; yet another, a police officer–in this wild and zany operetta.

“Everyone involved, are all hilarious,” Victoria said. “It’s been so much fun to see how we come together to make magic with nine people’s ideas. At rehearsal we were doing a lot of improv, in a sense, especially with the choreography. We were constantly thinking on our feet, figuring out how these characters would react.”

With her triple-threat talents of acting, singing and dancing, Movement and Dance Director Brian Sostek made Victoria the dance captain, which required her to know not just her own moves but also those of everyone else. That was a big challenge in a musical that’s already an overall challenge to do, but Victoria embraces all opportunities to grow as an artist.

L to R: Victoria Price, Elizabeth Hawkinson and Brian Sostek in rehearsal
(Photo by Connie Shaver)

“The singing is very difficult,” Victoria reflected. “There are so many words in the songs, and they’re sung so fast. We have to be able to get the words out so as to be intelligible yet sound beautiful. We’re trying to enunciate and get the best sound; and on top of that, memorize choreography. But the music is really beautiful and fun to sing.”

Victoria has loved musicals since early childhood but didn’t realize until later in life that making a career of being in them could be an option. She’d attended one year of high school at the New Orleans Center of Creative Arts before moving to Chicago, where she completed high school. After taking two gap years upon graduation, she eventually came to Minneapolis to train through North Central University and with other instructors outside of school.

Victoria (far right) as part of the police brigade
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

“A windy road brought me here,” said Victoria, “but I’m enjoying it. There are great opportunities here, and diving into this theatre community is exciting. I am passionate about live theatre and can’t wait for people to see my show. I’m especially looking forward to see young adults in the audience and to spark more interest in them to see live theatre.”

Asked if she’d ever wanted to be a pirate, she replied,” I was in Peter Pan in the fourth grade, playing Tiger Lily as well as a pirate in some instances. I wanted more to  be on the Peter Pan side, flying around. But it’s fun playing a pirate now. What I like is that they’re silly and take one moment at a time. One moment, they’re angry; the next moment, they’re happy again.”

Throw off those winter blues, and join in on the silliness with Vicki and “the gang” through March 25 at Park Square Theatre.

Cast members take their bows
(Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 

Tickets and information here.

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