By Dee Jae Cox (Photo credits to Jim Cox.)
C.S. Lewis once said that, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
“Ballroom,” the Tony award winning musical, with book by Jerome Kass and music by Billy Goldenberg, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and currently on stage at the Coachella Valley Repertory, is a story of loss, grief and learning to live again. Some may say that middle age isn’t the ideal time to start your life over again but anyone who has ever been faced with life altering circumstances, will understand the courage required to do what is sometimes required.
With the loss of her husband, Bea Asher, (Melodie Wolford) is forced to rediscover her independence along with a few of the lost treasures she had cast to the roadside during her marriage because they did not fit into her established life. Initially the routine and protectiveness of her family stabilizes her. Eventually spending weekends with her daughter Diane, (Aviva Pressman,) and grandchildren while living a little too close to her sister Helen, (Marcia Rodd) and brother -in-law Jack, (Bill Lewis,) begins to feel a bit closterphobic. They all surround her like a warm cloak, keeping away the chill of grief that follows her husband’s death, yet stifling her growth . But change is enevitable, as Bea rediscovers her her long lost love of dancing. She makes new friends and finds new romance, all of the things that threaten her safe secure life and throw her family into a tizzy.
Bea’s vulnerability and strength shines through as she sheds her fears and finds her boldness. Wolford gives a spectacular performance of this quiet bird who finds her wings and learns to fly against the wind. Alfred Rossi, (Bill Nolte,) Bea’s new love, is an average guy who finally comes clean about the secret he’s hiding and finds that sometimes love doesn’t always need an invitation and can find us when least expected. Nolte is absolutely wonderful in this role. He and Wolford are obviously seasoned professionals and they bring the right kind of chemistry to this slice of life musical.
CV Rep’s production of ‘Ballroom,’ is one that could rival Broadway. This large ensemble cast moves like silk across the stage. Under the skill of Ron Celona’s direction and Jose De La Cuesta’s choreography, the cast is seamless in their performances. If you close your eyes for a moment and listen to the live stage Orchestra under the musical direction of Scott Storr (Piano,) and consisting of Bill Saitta (Bass), Dominique Torres (Drums), Dave Thomason (Reed), Stewart Undem (Trombone), Stan Watkins (Trumpet) Cindy Brogan (Violin) and you will almost certainly find yourself in a classic Ballroom surrounded by sweet sounds and slow rhythms.
Jimmy Cuomo performed his usual magic with the set design, easily taking us from Bea’s living room to the elegance of the Ballroom. Moira Wilkie Whitaker’s lighting design was a little slice of heaven. I was immediately enchanted when the show opened with sparking ballroom lights dancing around the theatre and encapsulating the essence of the story.
Ballroom is a classic theatrical production. It weaves together a feeling of pure Broadway magnificence with an easily identifiable storyline.
“Ballroom,” is running through February 16th at Coachella Valley Repertory, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City.
For Information on upcoming shows: call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project. www.losangeleswomenstheatreproject.org and www.palmspringstheatre.com