Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Stage

Review: 'Traces' brings circus to a human scale

TAMPA — Seven Fingers, the Montreal-based troupe behind Traces, has as its goal to bring circus to a "human scale."

And that they have done. In Traces, which opened Tuesday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the company members dress in grayish more-or-less street clothes, instead of the garish spangled tights of the circus or the mystical disguises of Cirque du Soleil. They introduce themselves to the audience by name and they provide their birthdates and a few personality traits.

But a little more spectacle and little less humanity might actually have helped. Traces has a lot of stunning acrobatics and graceful, whimsical modern dance, but it also has an awful lot of long dry stretches, filled with moves you've seen many times before. And its set and costumes are visually tedious.

As in Cirque du Soleil shows, Traces has a plot line that audiences probably won't care about, or even discern unless they do research. In this case, it has something to do with seven people trapped inside a bunker while some kind of apocalypse is happening outside. The set is the color of ashes, and the performers wear charcoal business suits and white shirts.

The 90-minute show is episodic. An early dance piece, very pretty and punctuated by gasp-inducing acrobatic moments, is followed by an interminable segment in which the cast members toss around a basketball for no apparent reason. There's an astounding passage in which the cast performs gorgeous, daring and seemingly superhuman moves on poles, high above the stage, and an incongruous passage in which one cast member strums a guitar and sings a love song that isn't very good. That's actually the only weak music in the entire show, though. Several cast members play credibly, and the recorded backing tracks, mostly with pop and electronica flavoring, sound great and serve as excellent complements to the physical performances.

Perhaps the most thoroughly entertaining bit is a pure dance piece in which Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau — the only woman in the seven-person cast — dances in, on, under and with a recliner chair, remaining engrossed in the book she's reading the entire time.

Benoit-Charbonneau's expressiveness as a dancer — she even draws laughs with her toes — is evident in a couple of pieces. But the entire cast is her equal, performing flawless and consistently physical and graceful work in both dance and acrobatic segments.

The scattered technical glitches during Tuesday's performance are certainly forgivable. The dreadfully uninteresting sets and costumes (there are only a couple of splashes of color in the entire show) and the long passages of unimaginative work are harder to ignore.

Overall, Traces succeeds in entertaining, astounding and amusing. But its best moments, including some beautiful acrobatics and a very funny curtain speech that opens the show, promise a bit more.

Comments
Review: A seemingly inexhaustible shelf life continues in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

Review: A seemingly inexhaustible shelf life continues in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

TAMPA Apparently, the Phantom lives forever.Thirty-two years after its premiere, one of the top-grossing musicals of all time is still packing ’em in. Sunday’s matinee at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts showed why Andrew Lloyd ...
Published: 02/19/18
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Published: 02/17/18
Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

TAMPA — Cirque du Soleil is back in town with a new show.The Montreal-based company always puts on an extravaganza, splashing around color with the abandon of a toddler playing with paint buckets and a storyline several layers deep, the artistic skel...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/18/18
On stage this weekend: Trumpeter Haken Hardenberger, Complexions Contemporary Ballet

On stage this weekend: Trumpeter Haken Hardenberger, Complexions Contemporary Ballet

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: ROMEO AND JULIET The Florida Orchestra has lined up a romantic evening. This weekend’s concert, Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, pays tribute to Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein’s prelude, Fugues and R...
Published: 02/14/18
‘Brownsville Song’ at Stageworks tells important story but falls short on believability

‘Brownsville Song’ at Stageworks tells important story but falls short on believability

TAMPA — In some ways, the latest offering at Stageworks Theatre comes loaded with promise.A young man with a lot of motivation, personality and wisdom dies in a random and violent way. In telling his story, we also get a glimpse of life in a Brooklyn...
Published: 02/12/18
Laura Benanti talks about her Melania impression, growing up ‘the odd person out’ and more

Laura Benanti talks about her Melania impression, growing up ‘the odd person out’ and more

Tony winner Laura Benanti (for best actress in a musical), who brings her cabaret act to the Straz Center this week, was a self-described ugly duckling. Growing up in New Jersey, she never tired of Sondheim soundtracks and struggled with a secret shy...
Published: 02/09/18
Even Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle anymore

Even Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle anymore

Jimmy Buffett awoke one morning last year in one of his many homes — he can’t remember which one, there are a lot of them — and a panic gripped him in his throat. His new Broadway musical, Escape to Margaritaville, was coming along nicely, but someth...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/09/18
Florida Orchestra mixes it up, collaborates with community in 2018-19 season

Florida Orchestra mixes it up, collaborates with community in 2018-19 season

ST. PETERSBURGThemes are useful sometimes. Right now, the Florida Orchestra is still enjoying the heart of its 50th anniversary season, which has been big and loud and celebratory.At other times, maybe it’s best to just put a fine program together an...
Published: 02/08/18
Andrea Bocelli, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and Cirque du Soleil are all in town for Valentine’s Day

Andrea Bocelli, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and Cirque du Soleil are all in town for Valentine’s Day

VALENTINE’S DAY: ANDREA BOCELLISuperstar Andrea Bocelli and Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth team up again, the conclusion of a three-city tour. This time it’s a crossover trio with soprano Nadine Sierra, a 2009 winner of the Metropolitan Opera Nati...
Published: 02/07/18
Updated: 02/09/18
The weekend is cool, but how about a Valentine's Day Wednesdate?

The weekend is cool, but how about a Valentine's Day Wednesdate?

Happy February, lovers. Valentine’s Day a week away. Have you made plans? Possibly not, since the holiday falls on an inconvenient Wednesday this year (especially inconvenient for those who observe Ash Wednesday, a day of denying yourself exce...
Published: 02/07/18