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Jason Powell’s ‘The Quest’ Sets a New Standard

Fantasy story filled with imagination, humor, music and dance

May. 17, 2016
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Photo by Paul Ruffolo

Inside us all lives the child we once were. The Quest, Jason Powell’s fifth collaboration with Danceworks Performance Company, spoke to boys and girls of all ages.

A medieval story unfolded on stage in song, dance and spoken word, welcoming all on the journey of Princess Ashley, a narcoleptic princess on the hunt to find her kidnapped parents. Jason Powell’s original story was the driving force behind this production. Solidly written in whimsical rhyme and wildly imaginative, The Quest was a story filled with humor, mystical creatures and determined hearts. Powell and his apprentice bard, played by Erin Hartman, served as the voices for each character and serenaded us with original songs, fluidly performed.

Dancers lent their bodies to serve the narration, moving with grand gestures that highlighted the epic tale. Even without the splendid masks and costumes, I could easily identify each character solely from their idiosyncratic movements. Princess Ashley, played sweetly and courageously by Kim Johnson, had a more balletic style than most of the cast. Her dancing was elegant and powerful, surely sparking ideas within the minds of young girls that they, too, can be as strong as they wish. The creeping, broken undulations of the Troll, marvelously executed by Alberto Cambra, cast a spell upon my eyes and I could not look away. Gina Laurenzi, the Witch, slashed her way through space with controlled force and twiddled her fingers, making Princess Ashley and the audience wary of her intentions. A buoyant jester with lots of attitude, a shimmering fairy, a warrior woman, a regal king and queen and a stoic, conniving chancellor also graced the stage, along with fairy children.

Cream City Percussion played alongside Chant Claire Chamber Choir onstage and before the show and at intermission. The sounds of their wooden marimbas echoed through Next Act Theatre and kept us enchanted during the break.

Chant Claire Chamber Choir serenaded performers and audience alike. When the story inspired joy, the singers lifted our spirits higher. Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep,” a personal favorite, filled the room with whispers and mesmerizing harmonies as Princess Ashley fought her sleepy misfortune. The choir, alternately haunting, foreboding and poignant, gave me chill after chill.

DPC has raised their own bar with The Quest, and I can only hope this is a sign of more to come.

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