There is no plot in the fourth San Luis Obispo Little Theatre (SLOLT) FUNdraiser production “Shimmy Shake Shine!”, choreographed by Emmy-award winner Suzy Miller. There are no main characters, no common setting and there isn’t much dialogue.
Miller said “Shimmy Shake Shine!,” does present a “new animal,” which she defines as a raw, emotional experience with a nonlinear form that celebrates the human spirit and all its complexities.
“The concept is sort of a trip down the rabbit hole, the idea of going to all different worlds, the idea of going from a Bollywood world to a Gothic Lair to a Marie Antoinette court. I loved the variety of it,” Miller said. “I think different styles (of dance) just display different emotions.”
Running from July 8 until July 31, “Shimmy Shake Shine!” continues to dazzle crowds with its seemingly random yet unified two-act collection of 35 dance and song numbers. The production contains a combined total of 14 dance styles, including tap, hip-hop, ballroom, bollywood, musical theatre and Irish stepdancing. “Shimmy” furthers its uniqueness by incoporating suspended aerial routines during which a dancer uses long, silk ribbons to climb and flip on.
“There was a real excitement in doing all different styles. I didn’t want anything to be repetitive or like another dance,” Miller said.
Just like the different dance styles, the costumes are a random mix of deconstructed scrap material provided by Miller, the cast, the Nipomo High School Drama Department, and various contributors.
“Each number had a different source for the costumes,” Miller said.
Along with the costumes, all of the dance numbers explore the themes of time, love, relationships, loss and transformation.
“Shimmy” represents “finding beauty (in life) no matter how bittersweet” and the “triumph of the human spirit,” Miller said. “It is important that we laugh at ourselves and the human condition because we make ridiculous mistakes. You just gotta laugh or else you’ll be mortified.”
What one experiences from the performance depends on the person, Miller said. She compared it to a Rorschach inkblot test because each person will get something unique out of the production.
The production’s title alludes to the various dance numbers which include renditions of “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper, “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, a cross between “We Will Rock You” and “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” and other favorites of Miller.
The incorporation of all the different music genres and artists made creating a comprehensive show difficult.
“We worked really hard on the flow, and it took a lot of experimenting to find a way for it to make sense. I think ultimately, hopefully, we got the rollercoaster we wanted,” Miller said.
“Shimmy” features no main characters; instead, it is a showcase of performers. Each of the 29-member cast was given a number that catered to their talents and showcased them as an individual, Miller said.
Kevin Harris is Miller’s co-creator and the managing artistic director of the SLOLT. By excluding main characters, “Suzy provided the audience with a way to put their own story to it,” Harris said.
“It’s so serendipitous that we got this group of people because it’s the only group of people that could make that show happen. If you take one of them out or switch them around, especially with a show like this, it’d be totally different,” Harris said. “The entire journey and flow would be disrupted.”
Jessi Brown-Carlin, the house manager of the SLOLT, agrees.
“As far as Suzy goes, it’s one of her more exotic pieces. I think she showcases the stars in a way that allows them each to shine,” Brown-Carlin said. “She did a good job of putting the cast in roles that were for them. Having 29 cast members…it’s not an easy thing to do.”
Many of the cast members worked with Miller in the past, so they understood her rehearsal process and choreographic language.
Nineteen-year-old cast member and vocalist Isaac Bromby recalls the intensity of the weeks leading up to the show.
“The rehearsal process was like a marathon. You had to have lots of endurance,” Bromby said.
Finding a time to have the cast to rehearse all at once proved to be one of the biggest challenges. They finally did the day before opening night. Even with the insane rehearsal process, the cast became very bonded, Bromby said.
Tickets are available for $35 for tonight, Friday and Saturday afternoon, and $50 for the Saturday Martini Night. The evening shows begin at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday’s afternoon show begins at 2:00 p.m. All funds go to the theatre.