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Show Down
Published on Monday, 17 August 2009

There are certain things you expect with a musical: memorable songs, showy numbers, mad eyed girls grinning from ear to ear – in essence, spectacle over subtlety. It's de rigueur in New York at the moment for contemporary choreographers to reinterpret old musicals; Show Down is a reinterpretation of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, but it turns out to succeed more as a low key musical.

As a contemporary dance piece Show Down just doesn’t work. Sometimes it falls into the trap of employing gesture to match the words of the song, which works for full-scale musicals but not contemporary dance. At other times the choreography is fairly nondescript. Additionally, with such recognisable songs, it’s hard to imagine them as anything other than a “musical number”. Show Down works best when it succumbs to the spirit of its inner musical. Big group numbers? Check. Wide-eyed mad girl? Check. Check shirts? Check. You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun and Anything You can Do start to fly as the choreography approaches that of musical dance numbers. My Defenses Are Down captures the emotional tone of the song and includes some nice group work too; in its final strains, the standout performer slides down another, like the ribbons on a maypole. The toe tapping, barrel jumping There’s no business like show business works well too.

An Old-Fashioned Wedding concludes the show. David Parker, impresario of The Bang Group has a genial presence and the duet song and tap dance number is endearing.

Show Down does end on a high note. Musical performers are consummate professionals; they know how to finish a number with a pose and they know how to take their bows. It’s just that Show Down is a show trapped by its genre; it needs a larger space and higher production values to succeed as a musical, or some more distinctive choreography (to a different score) to succeed as a piece of contemporary dance.

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