Dance and romance in theatrical ‘In Your Arms’

Jonathan Sharp (foreground) with the cast in Douglas Carter Beane's vignette "Artists and Models, 1929," part of the world premiere musical In Your Arms. In Your Arms, with music by Stephen Flaherty and direction and choreography by Christopher Gattelli, runs Sept. 16 - Oct. 25, 2015 at The Old Globe. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Jonathan Sharp (foreground) with the cast in Douglas Carter Beane’s vignette “Artists and Models, 1929,” part of the world premiere musical In Your Arms. In Your Arms, with music by Stephen Flaherty and direction and choreography by Christopher Gattelli, runs Sept. 16 – Oct. 25, 2015 at The Old Globe. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

By Erin Philips

Erin Philips

Erin Philips

SAN DIEGO – In Your Arms, the world premiere musical currently playing at the Old Globe, is simply sensational. Romance is the theme and dance is the medium for the ambitious production: ten mostly wordless vignettes, created by a lineup of theatre heavyweights, including Tony, Pulitzer Prize, Emmy and Academy Award winners.

The vignettes are stories of love, loss, and romance told through movement and music, with direction and choreography by Christopher Gattelli and an original score by Stephen Flaherty. The show begins with the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, and from there each vignette unfolds against the backdrop of a brick-and-stone wall where modern-day couples kiss and leave love notes.

Each vignette occurs in a different time and place, from a tavern in fascist Spain to a drag ball in 1920’s New York, a contemporary Shanghai office to an out-of-time alien encounter. The collection also ranges widely in style and tone, from the passion of tango and flamenco in Nilo Cruz’s “The Lover’s Jacket,” to the hilarity and camp of an international ballroom competition in Christopher Durang’s “The Dance Contest.”

Several vignettes outshine the rest. Actor and best-selling author Carrie Fischer’s “Lowdown Messy Shame” is a winking sendup of the writing process, Paris, boy-meets-girl story ballets, and Fischer’s own fame and foibles. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s “A Wedding Dance,” featuring North African traditions, is stunning in its power and tragedy. And Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang’s “White Snake” provides mind-bending, martial-arts-inspired action.

The cast is as talented and acclaimed as the creative team, with 22 dancers comprising the ensemble and performing throughout the show. Standouts include Henry Byalikov, a “So You Think You Can Dance Australia” and “Dancing With the Stars” veteran, whose charisma and physical prowess make him an unmatched presence onstage. Jenn Harris is another showstopper. With numerous regional and Off Broadway credits, including appearances in the plays Modern Orthodox and New Jerusalem, she brings comic relief and strong acting chops to multiple scenes.

From swing to tap, beaches to bars, giddy to sensual to wistful, In Your Arms is an expression and exploration of love in many forms. Don’t miss this theatre and dance tour de force, playing at the Old Globe through October 25.

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Philips is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.

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