The focus was on physical comedy during “Funny Bones,” a Dance Kaleidoscope concert I attended Friday at the Indiana Repertory Theatre Upperstage. Act 1 consisted of a series of pieces choreographed by DK Dancers, called “Make ‘em Laugh.” The second act, also full of physical comedy, featured “Merry Mozart,” choreographed by David Hochoy and set to music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“Make ’em Laugh” is a reference to a song in the 1952 film “Singin’ in the Rain.” That number is famous for the physical comedy executed by Donald O’Connor, a master of the form which depends on manipulation of the body for a humorous effect. Physical comedy, which originated as part of the early form of professional theatre in Europe called “commedia dell’arte” includes physical stunts, clowning, mime, slapstick or making funny faces. Without question, the DK dancers’ works were replete with those elements. I had seen the dancers’ creations previously during the 2018 IndyFringe Festival, after which it was honored as the best-selling show of the annual theatre festival so I looked forward with great anticipation to seeing it again.
All of the eight pieces presented were solidly executed, but those which amused me the most included “Don’t Tell Mama” set to a song from the musical “Cabaret.” Choreographed by Brandon Comer, the piece, which in the musical features the Kit Kat Club girls in a production number, starred Cody Miley in the role of the emcee. Miley, a consummate actor, stood out for his personality and comedic flair.
“Recess,” was choreographed by Manuel Valdes. Depicting the boundless energy of elementary school students on a playground, the piece was set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, the perfect accompaniment to the choreography, which illustrated kids jumping, running, jumping rope, fighting and dancing.
Another favorite was “Prom,” choreographed by Paige Robinson, which depicted various character types, such as jokers, nerds, rebels, etc. at a high school prom. Set to a series of pop songs, including “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “Without You,” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Robinson’s piece wittily portrayed a collection of awkward behaviors common to teens, especially ones that involve peer pressure at high school events like prom.
“Naptown Misfits,” choreographed by Timothy June and set to music by Meghan Trainor, featured dancers Emily Dyson, Marie Kuhns, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Miley and June playing an assortment of so-called losers in talent competitions. It was a funny, affectionate valentine to proverbial square pegs in round holes.
Hochoy’s “Merry Mozart,” which included eight works, set to eight separate pieces composed by Mozart was first presented by DK in 2001. Through some of these pieces, Hochoy cleverly managed through dance to extract from Mozart’s music the humor that dwells therein. But the dances that truly affected me the most were the ones which showcased superb partnering. They were Mariel Greenlee and Comer in “Clarinet Concerto,” Dyson and June in “Là ci darem la mano” from “Don Giovanni,” and Lukasiewicz and Stuart Coleman in “Piano Sonata.” Jillian Godwin and Miley in “Non più andrai” from “The Marriage of Figaro” showed tremendous stage chemistry and I hope to see them paired together again soon.
With “Funny Bones,” Hochoy and his dancers injected humor into dance, making the audience laugh profusely, and they did so without uttering one word—not an easy feat. But like the performers in early silent films who relied only on movement and facial expression to elicit laughter and joy, they heartily succeeded. It was a challenge well met.
For tickets and information remaining performances of “Funny Bones” on March 1, 2 & 3, call (317) 940-6555 or go online to dancekal.org.