Vices: A Love Story

South Florida has had a year-round theater scene for years, but audiences do tend to thin out in the summer as folks vacation.
Figuring many in his regular crowd had missed out on the 2009 midsummer world premiere of Vices: A Love Story, artistic director Clive Cholerton decided to kick off his new season at the Caldwell Theatre Company with a reprise of Vices, which remains as red-hot as it was during its sizzling summer debut.

Winner of a pair of Carbonell Awards for lead actress-dancer Holly Shunkey and choreographer A.C. Ciulla, Vices is an edgy, funny, sobering dance-theater piece about a young urban couple and the temptations that threaten to doom their fiery relationship.

Vices: A Love Story is the work of a sizable team. The music and lyrics are by Susan Draus, Everett Bradley, Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid. The connective “story,” which is told solely through music and dance, is by Heitzman and Reid.

Ciulla conveys the piece’s elemental passions through his choreography. And director Cholerton, who played a strong developmental role as Vices was coming together in 2009, makes it all hang together.

This slender, contemporary musical could have been a case of too many cooks in the rehearsal room. Instead, it became (and remains) a triumph for all involved.

Three of the performers — the gloriously expressive Shunkey, plus singers Carlos L. Encinias and Lara Janine — have come back for a second round of Vices. Shunkey’s “boyfriend” and dance partner, Albert Blaise Cattafi, is new, as are singers

Danielle Lee Greaves and Will Lee-Williams. But thanks to the work of Cholerton, Ciulla and musical directors Eric Alsford and Caryl Ginsburg Fantel, the cast functions as a seamlessly talented ensemble, though each performer makes the most of his or her many chances to shine.

Shunkey and Cattafi are both mesmerizing, dramatic dancers able to clearly communicate the nuances of the story line. Her character gets tempted by shopping, chocolate, partying and more. His workaholic guy releases stress by gambling, staring at his big-screen TV, giving in to the impulse to cheat. Passion flares, dies, gets rekindled.

Along with scene- and theme-setting projections by Sean Lawson, the singers provide context. Together and in impressive solos, they cover a wide stylistic range, from torch songs to faux Gilbert and Sullivan, from a Manhattan Transfer-style scat to the return-to-disco Do You Mind If I Smoke? All four have sung on or off Broadway, and as the show unfolds, their powerful voices grow ever stronger.

Vices: A Love Story could still use some tinkering to strengthen its transitions, and though its score is impressive, not every number is a gem. But seldom will you find a show that makes late autumn feel quite this hot — in South Florida or anywhere.


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