FineLine Theatre Arts presents 'Americans in Paris'
In the headline segment of the performing arts school's "Spring Performance 2007" -- to be held this weekend at the Kent Community House -- this 18-minute ballet would have done Gene Kelly proud. Kelly both choreographed and starred in the original Academy Award-winning musical production.
As FineLine Theatre Arts' premier dance concert, with a libretto by Tony Award-winner Scott Wise, who owns FineLine with his wife, Tony Award-nominated and Astaire Award-winner Elizabeth Parkinson, "Americans" was a team effort among the school's staff.
"The way it unfolds is ingenious," said Begelman, "the music lends itself to dance and movement"� It is a story, not just pure dance"� which is very clear."
Begelman, teacher and director of the school's pre-professional division, formerly owned the School of Performing Arts (SOPA) in New Milford, before merging with Wise and Parkinson's FineLine in October of 2006.
According to Begelman, Wise had had a brainstorm: "Wouldn't it be great if"�" he'd mused. As a departure from the original story line of a young man visiting Paris, his presentation would instead bring to life the adventures of three young American girls in France's capital, the City of Light.
"There's not a dull moment," said Begelman. "It's like organized chaos." Three girls all with totally different personalities experience Parisian restaurants, shopping, getting lost, the Moulin Rouge Can Can, and love.
FineLine doesn't stage a traditional recital; every student is not necessarily involved in each production. Approximately 30 students make up the cast of "Americans in Paris," with three principal dancers playing lead roles.
Tiffany Billings of New Milford portrays a demure young girl; Elizabeth Cox, also of New Milford, is a hip-hopper "Bobby-soxer" of the 1950s; and Watertown's Jillian Marchenko is an everything-by-the-books map-wielding perfectionist.
As headliner for Spring Performance 2007, "Americans" is the longest segment of the show. "The whole thing from beginning to end was executed by Scott (Wise). From props to posters"� everything to make it exciting," said Begelman. Audience members may just be asking where their caf� au lait and croissant are at the conclusion.
"We hope this piece will remain in the repertoire to be pulled out every few years," added Begelman.
FineLine's "celebration of dance" concert will include many other diverse representations as well. There are eight or nine pieces which will run approximately an hour and 45 minutes with intermission.
"It was very appropriate"� Arlene (Begelman) choreographed for her students. She did a beautiful job," Wise said. "One number brought me to tears. It's very exciting to watch."
"Americans" and the additional segments were also choreographed by FineLine's Parkinson, as well as teachers Barbara Braverman, Robert Maiorano and Mary Ann Lamb. The show includes jazz, tap, a cabaret number, voice, and more classical ballet works.
Currently FineLine's strongest component is dance. "We have an amazing ballet program," said Wise. Eventually he and Parkinson will expand the acting and singing part of the school, which are the couple's strengths. An acting annex within walking distance of the current location is expected. They also hope to create a junior ballet company in residence with a solid performance repertoire. "We want the kids to perform as much as possible," Wise said, as a significant part of the process is stage experience.
Begelman and Wise hold similar philosophies toward theater arts education. "Class time is class time," Begelman said of how FineLine's teachers use this to lay down the foundations of technique. All performance rehearsals are done outside of class.
"No two schools are alike," added Wise. "This is our school. Our niche."
FineLine began last year with 40 students and now enrolls over 190. "We could get to 350 in the dancing program"� easily more with the acting and singing programs," Wise said.
When it comes to dance and theater arts, Wise is passionate. "It is fun," he said. "It's also discipline and work, but when it comes down to it, it is just a great way to live."
FineLine Theatre Arts'"Spring Performance 2007" opens at the Kent Community House, 93 Main St., in Kent, Conn., on Saturday at 7 p.m. with a second show Sunday at 4 p.m. All seats are $10. For tickets or more details call (860) 210-1444, visit 62 Railroad St. in New Milford, or see www.finelinetheatrearts.com.