There were several moments while at the opening of ‘Dancing Queen' that I wondered if at some point I had a little too much too drink that evening and somehow ended up in Branson. The tented show contains clean cut, very early twenty-somethings backed by canned instrumentals and at times, canned vocals delivering the hits of ABBA, Motown, Donna Summer and yes, wait for it…..The Village People. The problem with the production is not with the talent on the stage as with the overabundance of bodies on the stage that actually take away from the talented vocals.
The first act is filled with ABBA's greatest hits, all backed by bizarre dance numbers that remind one of a Richard Simmons' Dancing To The Oldies exercise class. At one point, there was once blond dancer boy doing the exact opposite of what the other seemingly 35 people on stage were doing and literally almost fell off the stage. It is a shame because when the show focuses on the singers and the songs, it is quite good and at times quite superior. What makes the ABBA songs so delectable are the great harmonies and the main singers here are all up to challenge of the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus songs.
‘Dancing Queen' features lead vocals by American Idol finalist David Hernandez along with Justin Jones (12 Tenors), Amanda Kerridge, & Jillian Schochet who each contain powerhouse vocal abilities and can certainly sell a song. By the time the second act came around and the dancing took a backseat to the vocalists, this show began to come together. With a soul medley including Aretha Franklin's ‘Respect' and ‘Think' and a much deserved tribute to the late Donna Summer (it still feels wrong writing ‘late' next to her name) the audience, which was a bit against the cast in the first act, came together with great support and encouraged them on. This was followed by an equally fine Motown Medley with Dancing in The Street and a great rendition of ‘Ain't No Mountain High Enough' by Ms. Schochet.
Undoubtedly though, it was the Village People's ‘YMCA' and ‘In The Navy' which had this jaded audience on their feet and brought the cast some much needed acceptance.
It is hard to say who the target audience is for ‘Dancing Queen' or if there is a target audience as by the end of the show, everyone from ages 10 to 70 were on their feet enjoying the high energy and pervasive allure of this cast. Myself, I am glad to be back from my head trip to Branson and will be undoubtedly be humming these songs for days to come.
‘Dancing Queen' plays through June 24th at the Riverfront Theater, 650 W. Chicago Ave.. Tickets are $35-$75 and may be purchased at www.RiverfrontTheater.com or by phone at 888.556.9484.