Odyssey Dance Theatre ‘Thrilled’ for its return to Park City
September 22, 2015
Since 2010, Odyssey Dance Theatre has brought its award-winning Dance Macabre "Thriller" to the Egyptian Theatre.
The Halloween-flavored production is filled with monstrous vignettes that include mummies, witches, mass murderers, homicidal dolls and possessed scarecrows.
This year, the production will run for three weekends beginning Sept. 25, instead of the usual two, said Odyssey’s Artistic Director Derryl Yeager.
"It worked out and we’re excited to extend the run" Yeager told The Park Record. "We’ve really enjoyed doing it up there and enjoyed how much the audience likes what we do."
Yeager remembers the first year Odyssey staged the production in the Egyptian Theatre, which is the smallest venue on the tour.
"I didn’t know if we could fit the show into the theater, but we took it a step and at a time and made adjustments," he said.
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Dancers use the thrust stage, but also the main floor area in front of the stage.
"We were able to create an intimate atmosphere, which brings the dancers up-close-and-personal with the audience," Yeager said. "The dancers are so close to the audience that during one performance, one of our zombies tripped and her face fell into the lap of some guy in the front row."
Still, the closeness helps the company come up with more atmospheric ideas.
"I had the zombies purchase those creepy, eye-changing contact lenses to wear when they’re dancing," Yeager said. "Because not only do the audience see the costumes and makeup, they can actually see the dancers’ eyes and those contacts are perfect."
The biggest challenges happen backstage, he said.
"There is only one entrance stage left, so we had to figure how to make it work out with all of the dancers trying to get on and off the stage," Yeager said. "We’ve actually entered from outside from time to time, but I’ve never cut anyone from the stage. We just rearranged the dancers and they can still kick and dance. So, if we ever get the opportunity to do this show Off-Broadway, we can."
This year’s challenge will be even bigger.
"We have a dinosaur that will show up," Yeager said with a laugh.
The piece, called "Dino Dance, was inspired by the film "Jurassic World."
"The dinosaur will come out into the audience, but again, I’m not sure how we’ll work it out, but we will," Yeager said. "We’ll have the dinosaur go through the audience during the first act and then will be the main focus of the main work in the second act."
Yeager discovered the dinosaur costumes online at http://www.onlydinosaurs.com .
"They’re from a manufacturer in China and are so amazing," he said. "The eyes blink, the mouths open and close. And although one person gets inside to control them, these costumes are big. So, it will be fun to figure out how we’ll do it up in Park City."
Other than the "Dino Dance," the production will feature its trademark anchor works, "Thriller," "Curse of the Mummy," "Frankenstein and Frankenstein," "Jason Jam," "Salem’s Mass" and "River of Blood Dance."
"What’s amazing to me is these works that have been there from the beginning still work," Yeager said. "You’ve got ‘Thriller,’ where zombies just have to dance, and then you have ‘Curse of the Mummy.’ Even though we tweak it a little every year, the piece is generally the same as it was."
"Jason Jam" is the centerpiece of the whole production.
"The reason is because it’s funny all the time," Yeager said. "There’s just something about that one Jason who didn’t quite graduate from mass-murder school and is kind of off on his own little world."
During "Thriller’s" second season, Yeager introduced "River of Blood" dance that pokes fun of Irish step dancing and turns the stage into an arcade shooting gallery.
"I was amazed at how fast that piece became a staple," he said. "But then again, you can’t not shoot dancers on stage. Even as politically incorrect as it is, it’s still funny."
That’s not what Yeager thought a few years ago when the news was filled with reports about a sniper shooting random people back East.
"We went up to Ogden and performed the piece, which had been set before the sniper became news and we didn’t have time to change the program," Yeager said. "I held my breath because depending on how the audience reacted, it could have been good or very, very bad. But as soon as the first dancer went down, the audience laughed so hard and I did an audible, ‘Whew.’"
The other mainstay work is the balletic "Salem’s Mass," which depicts three witches who are chastised by a Puritan minister and get their revenge.
One year, someone who attended a performance in southern Utah complained about the piece.
"A woman wrote us and said, ‘How dare you do a piece about Joseph Smith,’" said Yeager, who is a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "She thought the minister was holding a Book of Mormon and killing women. You really can’t respond to something like that, because there would be no way for us to change her mind."
Regardless of those head-scratchers, performing "Thriller" is fun for the dancers and for Yeager.
"Each year we try to up the ante each year and it’s fun to freak people out," he said. "Halloween in general is a time where people are allowed to be politically incorrect. It’s sick humor, but it’s really entertaining. And audiences like to be scared or creeped out."
Odyssey Dance Theatre will kick off its three-weekend run at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. Additional performances will be Saturday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Sept. 27; Thursday, Oct. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 4; Thursday, Oct. 8, through Sunday, Oct. 11. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s performances start at 6 p.m. There will be an additional matinee on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 3 p.m. Thursday ticket-prices range from $19 to $29 and tickets for Friday through Sunday performances range from $23 to $35. While some material may not be appropriate for younger children, Odyssey Dance Theatre suggest audience members be at least 12-years-old to attend. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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