Developed by Susan Stroman and
John Weidman for the Lincoln Center Theater, CONTACT: THE
MUSICAL was originally planned as a traditional two-act musical.
The more Stroman and Weidman talked about the content of the
show, however, the more it seemed as though CONTACT needed
to find its own form. The characters did not seem to want to
sing, but they did want to dance. In the end, they settled on
a musical extravaganza consisting of three thematically-linked
short stories told mostly through dance.
The first story, "Swinging," has as its source an
18th century painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard set in
a bucolic forest clearing, where a beautiful young woman soars
on a swing while two men look on. In Stroman and Weidman's version,
they are a servant and his master vying for the young lady's
affection. The Rodgers & Hart song "My Heart Stood Still,"
as recorded by jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, provides
the aural bed for this sexy romp in the French countryside.
Story #2: "Did You Move?" takes place in 1954 in
Queens, New York, at an Italian restaurant. The heroine is a
soft-spoken woman trapped in a loveless marriage, who tries to
escape her verbally abusive husband through a series of romantic
and comic fantasies. Imagining herself a prima ballerina, she
dances with the headwaiter, the busboys and the restaurant's
other customers to the grand melodies of Tchaikovsky, Grieg and
The final story, "Contact," is set in present-day
New York, and is the story of Michael Wiley, a wildly successful
advertising guy in his 40s who is wildly suicidal about his personal
life. He is mysteriously drawn to an after-hours club in Manhattan's
meat-packing district, where he tries to engage a beautiful young
woman in a yellow dress who keeps appearing and then disappearing
into the crowd of sinuous couples swing-dancing to the music
of Benny Goodman, The Beach Boys, Robert Palmer, Dion, and The
Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Contact premiered at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre
in September 1999, then moved to Broadway's Vivian Beaumont Theatre
on March 30, 2000, with a cast that featured Boyd Gaines as "Michael
Wiley," Karen Ziemba as "Wife," and Deborah Yates
as "Girl in Yellow Dress." The play stirred up a hornets'
nest of controversy by winning the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical.
The fact that the music for the dance play was entirely pre-recorded,
and mostly from classical sources didn't sit well with either
traditionalists or union musicians. Nevertheless, the show became
an instant hit with critics and audiences alike.
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