"Dancing Queen" is the Abba and 70’s inspired celebration currently playing at the New York New York hotel in Las Vegas. It’s almost impossible to not draw comparisons between this and its sister show in the Broadway Theatre, "Broadway Celebration," which I reviewed last week for Edge, largely due to the fact that it has almost the same cast.
But where "Broadway Celebration" goes wrong with odd arrangements of Broadway classics, this show stays closer to home with the sound of the music sounding like the music it’s celebrating.
The show has the same four singers from "Broadway Celebration." They sound good together and the good news is that they don’t get too much in the way of the dancers or into their own interpretations of the classic music. The blonde female singer delivers a very contained performance that at times seems to be only for her in its smallness.
The brunette female singer delivers plenty of pageant belting again in this show that somehow seems more palatable. Both women have no idea what to do with their other hand that is not holding the mic. They move the arm without the mic so much I wasn’t sure if they were trying to land a plane or simply signaling the male singers to steal third base.
The male singers don’t impress but don’t offend either. Well, that is until the one male singer appears looking similar to the sailor on the Cracker Jack box, lisping and limp wristing his way through YMCA by Village People that actually did offend me. You already have the boy dancers in the Village People costumes and the actual Village People never came off that swishy so why he and the director felt the need to do this with this one number is beyond me.
Nothing else was "camped up" like this so it makes you wonder why they went for the cheap laugh. That said, 60-year-old Harry from Des Moines behind me thought it was hilarious.
While the singers sound good in the one small section sung a cappella, it sounds as though there may be more than background vocals on the recorded tracks they sing to during the show. Which may be why in "Broadway Celebration" they announce the singers in the cast but not the dancers and the reverse is true in this show, only the dancers are announced in the curtain call.
The dancers are all good with the exception of one of the four male dancers that looks like someone’s 16-year-old cousin who was filling in for the night. Between his black hair on the sides and bleached blonde top that draws your attention, his lack of technique or seemingly understanding he’s in a show is more than a little distracting from the very talented male dancers of whom, Michael (looking like a young Gene Anthony Ray from the ’70s movie "Fame") is the standout. The six women are talented as well and Lindsey who was challenged to do every "Flashdance" move in the last show shines again with her performance that at times seems as if it’s too big for the stage but she’s fun to watch.
The problem with this show is not the cast; it’s the production team (you’ll be hard pressed to find anything about them on the Spirit Productions website other than a lot about producer David King ). The show starts with Abba songs, moves into a medley of classic ’70s music from the Bee Gee’s then to the song, "Carwash" (a painful pageant version delivered by the two female singers alone on stage) to a Motown medley of songs NOT from the ’70s (and with no ethnic singers in the cast this makes it really feel like an old Lawrence Welk show filled with white people trying to be soulful; unfortunately they’re not going for that).
Then it’s back to an Abba finale with the oddest choice of the night, "Waterloo," as the big, "get the audience on their feet and swing their arms over their head" number, as they try to simulate the end of the Broadway show "Mamma Mia" in a poor imitation.
The dancing has no ’70s movement other than the YMCA dance and an occasional male dancer putting an arm up in the classic John Travolta pose from "Saturday Night Fever." Instead, the choreography looks like competition dancing from a dance studio.
Major missteps listed above (and oddly enough no Donna Summer music or mirror ball present) with all its faults, "Dancing Queen" manages to entertain in spite of itself thanks to the foot tapping, sing-along Disco era soundtrack. So in the words of Abba, "Thank you for the music."