HomeEntertainmentReview | The Sting dance show is hard to understand but pretty...

Review | The Sting dance show is hard to understand but pretty much works

Sting has for decades made a practice of closing his concerts with “Fragile.” The pacifist ballad comes from “… Nothing Like the Sun,” the 1987 album that cemented the schoolteacher-turned-professorial-rock-star’s reputation as an artist with a global focus, in instrumentation and in subject. But the song from that album that provides the climax to Kate Prince’s Sting-focused dance saga “Message in a Bottle” at the Kennedy Center is a more lyrically direct one: “They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo).” An indictment of the human rights abuses by Chile’s U.S.-backed military dictator Augusto Pinochet, the song builds to a cheerful chorus, one we now see as well as hear: “One day we’ll dance on their graves.”

The narrative of displacement, migration and renewal Prince has imagined has no dialogue or lyrics beyond those heard in the more than two dozen songs from the catalogue of the Police and Sting’s subsequent 40-year solo career. It’s clear enough from what the celebrated British choreographer communicates visually, via her 14 magnificent dancers and by the harrowing lighting and projection design on a stage that’s otherwise largely bare — the better to allow these artist-athletes to fling themselves around it — that her tale is one of a community of people who flee the violent destruction of their homes, undertake a perilous sea crossing and find themselves separated from one another in a razor-wire-fenced refugee camp. I needed the synopsis in the program to clarify for me that our central characters are a mother and father and their teenage kids Leto, Mati and Tana.

The two songs already named and the 21st century tracks “Inshallah” and “The Empty Chair” — the latter written in memory of James Foley, the war correspondent beheaded by ISIS in 2014 — have a close lyrical bearing on Prince’s story. Elsewhere, her efforts to connect her narrative to Sting’s declarations of love (“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”) and howls of isolation (“So Lonely,” “Message in a Bottle”) is more tenuous.

When she indulges in on-the-nose-transliteration, the effect is often funny: Refugees swinging gymnastically out of their cages as “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” plays; a trio of dancers writhing while standing upright in a simulation of sleeplessness and then launching into a series of leaps — captured and elongated in projected silhouettes — during “The Bed’s Too Big Without You.” (Naturally, Prince also finds room for “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” a Police banger about the clumsy inadequacy of, you know, words. It’d be gross negligence if she didn’t.)

In sum, the show, which premiered at London’s Sadler Wells Theatre in 2020, is a more persuasive re-contextualization of Sting’s music than, say, Signature Theatre’s 2018 musical “Girlfriend,” which repurposed Matthew Sweet’s eponymous 1991 breakup album as the soundtrack to a budding love affair between two lonely teenage boys in early ’90s Nebraska.

While many of these songs are heard in their familiar recorded versions, new arrangements (by Alex Lacamoire) abound, and Sting scholars will delight in the way he has interwoven “Desert Rose” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” to cite one early example. Eight numbers feature new singing from “guest vocalists” Beverley Knight, Lynval Golding, Claudia Georgette, Shaneeka Simon and Christella Litras.

But of course the show belongs to Prince’s lithe and unencumbered dancers, whose relationship to gravity — an open relationship, it would appear — is nicely captured by the 1979 Police track “Walking on the Moon.”

Message in a Bottle, through April 21 at the Kennedy Center. About two hours, including an intermission. kennedy-center.org.

Source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments