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"Contact" Musical by Susan Stroman at 2000 Tony Awards

WHAT’S UP BROADWAY FANS?!! Things are about to get hot as we are celebrating the return of Live Theater and Broadway’s biggest night!!! The 74th Annual Tony Awards are just 40 DAYS AWAY!!! We at New York Broadway Tours are continuing to get our groove going again each morning playing you our favorite performances from previous telecasts on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN!!! Are you ready for more toe-tapping performances?
At # 40 on our countdown is a show that is truly a celebration of something we can all relate to…. The feeling of wanting to have that strong connection with someone and fall in love. This is CONTACT. Created and conceived by Susan Stroman, this is NOT your traditional Broadway Musical. This show is mainly told as a “Dance Play” with all the music pre-recorded in 3 one-acts consisting of….
Act 1 is entitled SWINGING – It’s a contact improvisational dance inspired by Fragonard’s painting THE SWING. Set in an 18th-century French forest clearing, it follows a servant and his master wanting to win the heart of the young lady on the swing. Much of the action takes place on a moving swing. Its themed music features a beautiful rendition of Rodgers & Hart‘s MY HEART STOOD STILL played by Stéphane Grappelli.
Act 2 is entitled DID YOU MOVE – Set in Queens, New York at an Italian Restaurant in the year 1954, the story follows a “not-happy” marriage of a small-time gangster and his wife. There, the wife dreams of the day wanting to escape her abusive husband through dance. It’s themed music features Edvard Greig’s ANITRA’S DANCE, Tchaikovsky’s WALTZ FROM EUGENE ONEGIN, and Bitzet’s FARANDOLE….. all recorded by the New York Philharmonic and conducted by one of Broadway’s very own Leonard Bernstein.
Act 3 is the show’s official title CONTACT – Set in Manhattan in the present day, it follows the lives of 2 Manhattan apartment dwellers at a crossroads. At a bar, one of the men is smitten by a beautiful woman in a yellow dress. In order to win her heart, the man learns to gain the confidence in making contact with another human being. It’s themed music features a lot of contemporary popular pop/rock hits along with Jazz standards including Squirrel Nut Zippers’s PUT A LID ON IT, Dion DiMucci‘s legendary RUNAROUND SUE, Prima’s SING, SING, SING, and so much more.
From the 2000 telecast, here is the company performing one of the musical’s big dance showstoppers. From that 3rd act, this is cast dancing it out to Robert Palmer’s signature 1988 song SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE.
CONTACT was first conceived in the mid 90’s by Susan Stroman and her late husband Mike Ockrent. It was loosely inspired by an event that Stroman experienced at a dance club in the Meat Market district. There, she noticed a woman in a yellow dress believing “She’s gonna change someone’s life tonight”. Inspired by that one event, it gave the duo the idea of creating a show told through dance of the feeling’s people have when being in contact with other people.
Following a brief early development lab, the show officially arrived in our New York Theater scene at Lincoln Center Theater in the Fall of 1999. It first started downstairs at LCT’s OFF-Broadway home at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. It would later move upstairs LCT’s bigger ON-Broadway house at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in the Spring of 2000 running for a complete total of 1,041 performances. Under the direction and choreography of Susan Stroman, the cast featured….
Tony Award winner Boyd Gaines (later Alan Campbell and John Bolton),
Broadway veteran Seán Martin Hingston,
Tony Award nominee Deborah Yates (later Colleen Dunn),
Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba (later Charlotte d’Amboise).
The show was an instant smash hit earning critical acclaim and taking home glory at Awards season. The show was nominated for 7 Tony Awards in 2000 winning 4 including BEST MUSICAL.
FUN FACT: Despite the show taking home BEST MUSICAL category in all its Awards (the Tonys, the Drama Desk, and the Outer Circle Critics), controversy sparked over the win. The reason is because this musical used PRE-RECORDED MUSIC & NO LIVE SINGING. The Tonys committee would go on to create a brand new category…. BEST SPECIAL THEATRICAL EVENT. That nomination category would be presented for only 10 years and retired in 2009.
With the success of the Broadway production, CONTACT would later dance its way with several companies around the world including London’s West End. Hungary, Poland, China, and Korea. It later launched several Regional productions in North America.
CONTACT was also captured on film in the Fall of 2002. The Broadway production’s legendary final performance was recorded for PBS‘ Award winning series Live From Lincoln Center winning a Primetime Emmy Award for OUTSTANDING CLASSICAL MUSIC-DANCE PROGRAM.
How high energetic was that performance?!!!!

(1) “Contact” Musical by Susan Stroman at 2000 Tony Awards – YouTube

Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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